Woman's plea for public's help to meet long-lost dad for 'first and last time'
A woman who has spent her whole life searching for her long-lost dad is on a mission to raise the money she needs to visit him in New Zealand for the "first and last time".
Donna Robertson had all but given up hope of ever finding the dad she'd never met until an internet search on her 47th birthday came up trumps.
The mum-of-three, formerly of Sunderland, was ecstatic to stumble upon the family tree of her father Keith Thompson, who didn't even know she existed, and was able to contact him for the first ever time via a relative.
Donna, who has launched a GoFundMe page in a bid to raise enough money to meet the 72-year-old in Napier, New Zealand, said: "I had almost lost all hope of ever finding my dad.
"All my mum ever told me was that he'd been in the Merchant Navy and now lived in New Zealand.
"She'd had a very brief affair with him while he was on a visit home, but they hadn't kept in touch.
"I grew up in and out of care homes and I never had a sense of belonging. I felt like a spare part.
"I would think, who is this man? Does he really exist, does he look like me? I never forgot about him.
"When I finally managed to track him down it meant everything to me and more. My heart started beating really quickly and I just couldn't wait to speak to him."
Donna, who lived in Hylton Castle in the late 80s, early 90s and gave birth to her son there, started looking for her father as soon as she left care aged 16.
She spoke to all her the friends and relatives of her mum, who has since died, in a desperate bid to find out more information about her dad but drew a blank every time.
Later on she joined numerous ancestry websites but was still unable to find any trace of her long-lost dad.
She knew the name of her paternal granddad, who she had spent some time with as a child, and it was when she Googled his name that she came across the family tree that would finally lead her to father.
She added: "I was able to get the names of my dad's siblings and cousins and I started looking for them on Facebook straight away.
"I was able to make contact with a cousin and it was actually my dad's sister who ended up phoning him in New Zealand.
"And best news of all was that despite not knowing I existed he wanted to speak to me."
Donna, who now lives in York and works as a cook and cleaner at a school, was then given her dad's email address and the pair started exchanging messages before deciding to undergo a DNA test.
She faced a tense wait before she received an email from a lab in New Zealand to say that her DNA matched Keith Thompson's and he was her father.
Single mum Donna added: "It's very difficult for me to put into words how I feel about everything.
"I wasn't sure I would ever find my dad, or that he would want anything to do with me if I did.
"We have Face-Timed each other now, and I can really see the family resemblance. He has been lovely and said I am welcome to go and see him in New Zealand any time.
"He hasn't got any other children, so I know that this is a big deal for him, but he's actually been quiet calm about it.
"I just can't wait to see him in person and wrap my arms around him for the first time in my life.
"Realistically, because of his age and the cost involved in getting over there, I have to face the fact that this is probably going to be the first and last time I see him."
Donna is hoping to take her 15-year-old son Lewis to New Zealand with her and raise a total of Â£2,000 to fund the once in a lifetime trip.