By Jesse Graham
Thursday, 16 February was the culmination of a year and a half of campaigning for the family of Samuel Straub-Raeis, when the 11-year-old French boy met his first platypus.
Samuel’s family visited Healesville Sanctuary on Thursday morning for a tour and a wade with Yami the platypus, following a fund-raising campaign that began in September, 2015.
The campaign was started by Samuel’s physiotherapist in France, as the wheelchair-bound 11-year-old suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – a rare disease that causes muscle weakness and results in a shorter life expectancy.
The goal of the campaign was simple – to get Samuel across to Australia to meet his favourite animal, the platypus.
Through donations from 116 people and organisations, 7960 euros (roughly $11,038 Australian dollars) was raised to get Samuel to Australia and to the sanctuary.
“Because the illness does not forget them, let’s help Samuel and his family to forget it a little, by leaving for a wonderful and unforgettable journey,” a translated post on the crowdfunding page read.
After the public platypus show at the sanctuary on the Thursday, Samuel and his father Thomas hopped into the platypus tank with keeper, Jessica Thomas, and Yami the platypus.
The pair was able to pat the platypus while Ms Thomas told them about the animal, while his mother, Magali, and sister, Elisa, looked on.
Following the wade, Ms Thomas brought a second platypus out for Elisa to pat before the family continued their tour of the sanctuary, finishing the day with a visit to Phillip Island to see the penguins.
“This is it. Samuel made his dream come true!” a post on the Realiser le reve de Samuel (Realising the dream of Samuel) Facebook page read.
“We dedicate this post to all persons who have enabled this moment so unique to have taken place! Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!”