'NEVER work with children or animals' was comedian WC Fields' advice to fellow professionals.

Ray Collins has never been one to turn down a challenge.

On Friday, October 27, the Wantage electricals shop manager took a dizzying 86 parents and children on a day tip to Cotswold Wildlife Park.

In unseasonable sunshine the 23 families hung out with the hogs, peered at the pelicans and laughed at the lemurs.

The trip was organised by Mr Collins and his fellow trustees at the Ray Collins Charitable Trust as part of their remit to brighten the lives of disadvantaged local families.

Mr Collins had been in contact with local primary schools, who nominated families who would benefit the most from the outing.

Among the feedback from his daytrippers were the comments 'best day out ever' and 'all the animals are brilliant'.

One parent, Carrie Wilkins, said: "My son and I would not have been able to have this day without your kindness and hard work, I cannot thank you enough.

"People need to follow in your footsteps, I'd say, and be a lot kinder. It goes a long way."

Daniel Metcalfe added: "My kids had a lovely day as did I.

"It was lovely to meet you all and you were all brilliant with the kids. It must have been a pain to organise so I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us the opportunity to go with you."

The trust hired a double decker bus, paid for the entry tickets and provided lunch vouchers – £15 per person – for the entire group. In total the day cost £2,600.

Trustees Ray Collins, Melanie Breakspear, Matthew Donaldson and Laura Beale escorted the trip in person.

Mr Collins, who manages Peter Ledbury electrics in Wantage and founded his trust last year, said: "Today's trip was one of my proudest days to date.

"Growing up in a low-income family as I did, holidays were quite scarce and days out were provided by a local Sunday school and gave us some great memories.

"Seeing all these families, especially the children, enjoying themselves so much has really made the day so very special and one I'll never forget."

The trustees are now hoping to make this an annual event for families in need in the Wantage area, although the destination may change, with some already asking to go to the seaside next year.