They didn’t travel on a magic carpet. But a group of Island youth took off on a trip of a lifetime yesterday.
The Maritime Bus office in Charlottetown was filled with excitement, as well as some tears, Tuesday as eight P.E.I. children said goodbye to their parents before going on the Dreams Take Flight trip to Magic Kingdom in Orlando’s Walt Disney World.
The reality had begun to sink in for many kids as they loaded their luggage on a bus headed to Halifax. After spending the night there, they planned to depart at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday for a full-day visit to Walt Disney World.
“I want to go on some cool rides,” said 10-year-old Cody Picard, who especially wanted to see Space Mountain.
The youngster’s mother Courtney Picard said her son’s enthusiasm for the trip was building after watching videos of Disney World online.
“It’s an amazing experience for the children, it’s once-in-a-lifetime and I’m filled with excitement for him. All of them really,” said Picard.
Brylee VanHul, Cornwall, and Jordyn Wood, Morell, were also looking forward to the amusement park, especially the roller coasters.
Chris Wood, Jordyn’s father, described the Dreams Take Flight group as amazing.
“It really says something about the Island,” said Wood. “It’s a great organization.”
The P.E.I. volunteers with Dreams Take Flight Halifax chapter include group leader Angela Smith as well as Karen Judson, Stacey Nichol and Chantelle MacNeil.
The charity’s roots began in 1989 when several Air Canada employees flew 70 children to Walt Disney World.
By 1997, the charity had expanded across Canada and still provides all-expenses-paid trips to the park for children.
This year saw the group work with P.E.I.’s Public Schools Branch to select eight Island youth to be among about 130 children from the Atlantic provinces participating in the trip. The plane is donated by Air Canada, while the pilot and flight attendants donate their time.
Disney buses will meet the group at the plane and will take them directly to the park. The group is given Genie fast passes and gets to enjoy a full day there before taking a direct flight back.
“It’s just a day away to be a kid and not have any worries,” said Smith.
The day has also had a lasting positive effect on many who went down.
One student who went down eventually became a nurse and later volunteered her medical expertise for one of the trips.
“So many years later, she wanted to give back to the organization,” said Smith. “We just hope we make an impact and let kids know there are great things out there.”
HOW TO HELP
- Dreams Take Flight raises funds through corporate and private donations, raffles and other events.
- P.E.I. leader Angela Smith said sponsorships and volunteers make the trip possible. “We’re always looking for more people if they want to help out.”
- More information on the group, the criteria for selecting deserving children and how to donate can be found at Dreamstakeflight.ca and the group’s Facebook page.