CHILDREN who were left distraught when vandals broke into their nursery and killed their fish are celebrating after the community came together to raise money to replace them.

The youngsters at Mini Marvels Pre-School, based at the Adult Community Learning Centre in Rocheway, Rochford, were left devastated when vandals broke in last month, smashing 17 windows at the nursery and damaged their fishtank, killing all of the goldfish as well.

However, members of the community, led by Mark Dance, decided to replace the fish and get the children smiling again.

Despite never meeting any of the children, Mr Dance, who manages the Toomey petrol station and Spar, in Cherry OrchardWay, Rochford, donated £250 on behalf of the shop, collected another £250 from his fuel suppliers and hundreds more pounds from shoppers who took part in a raffle.

Pets at Home then donated products and staff time to set up the tank and will give a talk to the children about fish.

Another £500 donation was made by Rochford Community Church, while parents and residents who have no affiliation with the school have donated toys and costumes.

Mr Dance arrived at the school yesterday for an official unveiling of the multi-coloured cichlid fish from Lake Malawi in east Africa.

He said: “All the children are so excited.

“We had a collection tin at the till with a copy of the article from the Echo about the breakin.

“A lovely couple donated £20 after seeing the story in the Echo. It has been nice to have this response from customers.

The local community is strong here.

“The tank is a lot nicer than the one before, with tropical fish. The children can look at all the colours and learn about them as well.”

Janine Gould, the chairman of the pre-school, has been overwhelmed by the public’s support. She said: “The children have been so excited. Just having the fish tank back in the room has been exciting for them, without the fish even being here.

“People have been really kind to us, even those who don’t know us.

“It’s nice to have a happy ending to this story.”

Supervisor Anita Sparrow added: “This has given us a lot of faith in the community. It shows that people care.”

HUNDREDS of pounds donated by residents will go towards securing the future of the nursery.

Essex County Council told bosses at Mini Marvels Pre School to leave by July, but after campaigns, including protesting to the Prime Minister, they had a change of heart in May.

The school was given a lease extension until Christmas.

They expect to find out what Essex County Council plans to do with the building in July. Janine Gould, chairman of the pre-school, said: “We are saving some of the money until we know what we are doing with the school.

“If we can stay here we will buy something big for the children.

“But if we have to move we will need some new things.

“We fought tooth and nail to get to stay until Christmas.

“I even phoned up 10 Downing Street and we will continue to fight for the future."