FOR many children, being showered with birthday presents is the highlight of their year but two kind-hearted brothers put needy animals before themselves this week.

After a suggestion from their mum, Abigail, to think of others on their birthday, brothers William and Lawrence Shepherd agreed that instead of receiving presents for themselves they wanted a local animal rescue centre to benefit instead.

William, eight, and Lawrence, 11, asked the 40-plus guests invited to their joint birthday party at Sowerby Parochial Hall on Saturday to bring along presents for Lucie’s Animal Rescue Centre in Pickhill.

The guests did not disappoint, and the boys’ request led to a car full of goods, from animal toys to food and treats being brought along to the party and given to the centre by the birthday boys themselves on Tuesday.

Lucie Bates, who runs the centre from her family home, said she was touched by the selfless gesture.

She said: “We are not a registered charity, we fund the centre as a family and rely on donations.

“So we are absolutely overwhelmed with the generosity of the boys and it is so refreshing to see young children be so kind and generous.

“We have been overwhelmed with the amount donated, it has been just lovely.”

Mrs Shepherd said she was proud of the way her sons embraced her suggestion to think of a worthy cause to benefit from their birthday party instead of themselves.

She said: “It was good fun because people were turning up to the disco party with dog beds and all sorts of things and the boys were getting excited unwrapping it all and saying ‘oh look, I’ve got some dog food!’

“There was just bags and bags of stuff, the car was full to the brim.

“It was just one of those really, really nice things and I think the boys are realising even more so after the event just how nice it is to do something for other people.”

Lucie’s rescue centre is home to ducks and chickens and takes in dogs, cats and rabbits and tries to find them forever homes.

So far this year it has taken in and rehomed 57 dogs.

Animals can arrive at the centre after being caught as strays or because their owners cannot give them the care they need.

The Shepherd family has kept in touch with Lucie since adopting three rabbits from the centre earlier this year.