TOY STORY; Street cleaner reunites little Elena with lost Jaff the giraffe.
Byline: Martin Shaw Assistant News Editor email@example.com
LITTLE Elena White was distraught when her much-loved toy giraffe went missing on a shopping trip.
Mum Kat and daughter Elena, who will be two in April, lost the orange soft toy in Mirfield town centre before Christmas.
The giraffe - called Jaff because that's how Elena says 'giraffe' - fell out of Elena's buggy in Huddersfield Road, across the road from Kirklees Council's street cleaning depot.
When she got home and found Jaff missing, Kat, 30, retraced her steps but to no avail.
She and husband Simon contacted Kirklees Council and appealed on Facebook for anyone who had found Jaff to get in touch.
The family was resigned to Jaff having been gone forever - until they bumped into Mirfield street cleaner Ashley Wellburn in the town centre last week.
Ashley remembered the giraffe he'd found weeks before but didn't know where it was.
Suddenly a Kirklees Council truck drove past - with Jaff tied to the front.
"It was just amazing," said Kat. "I couldn't believe it. We thought Jaff had gone forever and I don't know who was more upset, me or Elena.
"I expected him to be filthy but he wasn't too bad. We got him home and put him in the washing machine and he's like new again. I could have kissed Ashley I was so grateful."
Jaff had a special place in mum and daughter's heart as it was the first toy Elena was bought after she was born.
It was a present from Kat's best friend Emily Stones, Elena's 'Auntie Em.'.
The toy came from Marks & Spencer and Kat tried to buy a replacement but they had stopped making them.
Jaff had survived many previous trips out including a visit to Disneyland Paris but it was one just five minutes from home that saw him go AWOL.
"Jaff must have had some adventures but he's not telling," said Kat. "We're just glad to have him home."
Ashley, however, was able to shed a bit more light on what Jaff had been up to.
Ashley found Jaff in the middle of the road on his rounds and thought someone would be missing him.
"I took it back to my depot in case anyone asked about it," he said. "It stayed there a couple of weeks before the gardeners took it out around Mirfield and Hopton.
"I'm happy the giraffe has been reunited with its owner."
Elena White as a baby with her beloved Jaff the giraffe and, main, |reunited with her favourite toy thanks to Ashley Wellburn