What is Dreamflight?
Dreamflight is a registered UK charity that changes young lives through taking seriously ill and disabled children, without their parents, on the holiday of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida.
Once a year, 192 deserving children from all over the UK, accompanied by a team of medical carers, board a chartered Boeing 747 and head to Florida to spend 10 magical days of fun and excitement. Many children could not undertake such a trip without the support of the army of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and non-medical volunteers who care for the children 24 hours a day.
Dreamflight, which has operated every year since 1987, believe that fun and joy are just as important as medical research and equipment - especially for children who perhaps can't wait long enough for the breakthrough they need or whose illnesses and treatments have brought pain, distress and disruption to their lives.
How did you get involved and how long have you been doing it?
Back in 2001 when I worked for British Airways, I heard about the charity and wanted to raise money and get involved. That year, and after an email to the Co-Founder Pat Pearce, I was invited to participate in the trip and look after two boys as a non-medical escort. 12 years later I’m still hooked!
What is your role when you're travelling with Dreamflight?
I have been a non-medical escort, a Group Leader for 16 children, and now I’m a Trustee of Dreamflight. This year I was Trip Director with overall responsibility for all 192 children and their carers.
What are some of the most memorable Dreamflight experiences?
I have many years of memories, with a real mixture of laughter and tears. Every year I see these children’s lives change over a ten day period. Dreamflight is not just a holiday. The children leave their families behind, giving them an opportunity to discover independence, confidence, and a whole new outlook on life. Often for the first time, these children realise that they are not alone, and they are not the odd one out. They see children around them who have also suffered, they gain perspective and experience things they never thought possible. Only yesterday I received this from a parent from this year’s trip:
‘Words cannot express our gratitude. He has actually gone to school, he couldn't wait to tell his friends all about his trip. I've never seen him so happy! Our scrapbook has been started for his memory box, think we're gonna have to buy a storage box!! I've honestly not seen him so happy in a long time. He quite often goes to bed tired and upset about all the things he’s not been able to do that day, last night he went to bed with the biggest smile on his face, singing songs you'd all been singing as a group!! Even though we weren't there, it's still a memory and treasure we will hold with us!!’
What are some of the success stories of how Dreamflight has changed lives?
We know of Doctors, cameramen and all manner of incredible career achievements of past Dreamflight children. Dreamflight children have gone on to represent Great Britain too! In 2008, eight of the returning Paralympians from Beijing, many of them medal-winning, had been Dreamflight children citing the trip as a turning point for them. Liz Johnson, a triple medallist, is now a Patron of the Charity. Two weeks ago we heard of a child from Hong Kong who came on the trip who has won seven Golds, one silver and one Bronze in Wheelchair Fencing, including two Golds at London 2012 and hopes to be selected for Rio 2016!
I don’t think we’ll ever know the full impact of Dreamflight.