More than 30 Midlands children will travel on Dreamflight′s 30th anniversary flight to Orlando Florida on October 16. BA cabin stewardess Patricia Pearce founded Dreamflight in 1987 after seeing a group of children’s amazing reaction to a Disney show. Since then Pat has worked tirelessly to ensure the trip has happened every year since and 2016 will see the charity’s 30th anniversary.
Travelling the world, Pat would recruit celebrities travelling in first class to support her charity. The first ever flight was waved off by Princess Diana. Cliff Richard has been a long-term patron, other supporters include Gary Barlow and Ant and Dec amongst others.
Pat has overcome many obstacles including cancer and heart failure to make the Florida trips happen every year and has only every missed one trip.
One Dreamflight Child said; “Dreamflight has taught me a lot of things. One is to never let your illness put you down, always look on the bright side of life, and remember there is always someone out there who is worse off than you."
The mother of another Dreamflight Child said; “My daughter still hasn't come down to earth, she talks about her holiday nonstop and what a fantastic time she had. She has found her confidence again and it is so lovely to see… She had non-stop fun and said everyone made her feel very special. I am truly grateful to you all; you have given my daughter the strength and confidence to be herself.”
Dreamflight, nominated each year by doctors, consultants and specialists across the UK, couldn’t operate without the support of hundreds of volunteers from the UK and in Florida as it needs to raise in excess of £750,000 each year to help each new wave of children.
Each year 192 children from across the UK, with a wide range of illnesses or disabilities, board a specially chartered aircraft for their 10 day trip, without their parents. They are looked after by a large team of volunteer escorts, including doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.
While the trip provides both children and parents with a break from what can often be difficult circumstances, above all, the emphasis is on fun. Alongside 10 days in the magical theme parks, there is daily swimming, evening entertainment and discos in the hotel, and lots of opportunities to socialise with other children and dance and dress up.
Over 5,000 children have so far taken part in a life-changing holiday with Dreamflight with many going on to amazing achievements – like in 2008, when eight of the returning Paralympians from Beijing, many of them medal-winning, having been Dreamflight children - citing the trip as a turning point for them, including swimmer Liz Johnson (now a Dreamflight Patron) and equestrian Natasha Baker MBE, both Team GB gold medallists.
2016 marks the 30th trip and there are plenty of celebrations planned throughout the year to give children the opportunity to do something that medicine can’t whilst they gain a real and lasting benefit.