Seventy-seven children, including several from Maple Ridge, were given the gift of a summer’s day on Tuesday as they took part in a one-day DreamLift trip to Disneyland courtesy of the Sunshine Foundation.
From the 4:30 a.m. start to being welcomed back by parents at midnight, the day was filled with adventure for the children, who all have serious medical issues.
Among the group were Maple Ridge kids Colin Huppee, 12, Cameron Campbell, 13, Matthew Norris, 12, and Casey Wright, 12.
The children were all accompanied by volunteers from the Lower Mainland, many of whom were health-care professionals from BC Children’s Hospital.
For example, Colin Huppee was matched with Patricia Lim, a doctor who is training to be a rehab physician at the children’s hospital.
On arrival at the John Wayne Airport in Los Angeles, another contingent of volunteers greeted the children with cheers, ready to spend the day with the kids. They were all from the Orange County sheriffs’ office, which partners with the Sunshine Foundation to make the day special for the children.
“The least we can do is to spend one day to make a child happy,” said Winston MacLean with the community services division of the sheriff’s office. MacLean spent the day with two nine year olds, one from North Vancouver and one from Richmond.
But the volunteers were just part of the day – emergency personnel of all stripes helped the day run smoothly.
Sending them off at the south terminal of the airport in Richmond in the early hours were several police officers – retired and active – including Maple Ridge’s Daryl Stone, president of the Lower Mainland chapter of the Sunshine Foundation, as well as Staff Sgt. Marc Alexander, founding organizer of the Sunshine Dream for Kids golf tournament – the fundraiser that paid for this trip.
Richmond firefighters were there to help escort the children and volunteers to the plane, sometimes just holding an umbrella to keep the rain at bay across the tarmac, other times, carrying the children onto the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 – they also created a water cannon arch as the plane taxied onto the runway.
Even the Canadian Border Services agents were smiling and greeting the children and volunteers, all the time checking bags and passports carefully before the trip.
Matthew Norris, also from Maple Ridge, had slept five hours the night before DreamLift, but he was still looking forward to the best thing at Disneyland: “The rides!” he said, adding though that he’d also check out the gift shops.
Cameron Campbell, a Grade 8 student at Samuel Robertson Technical, was able to get some Jedi training at Disneyland, eventually fighting Darth Maul himself with his new-found skills in wielding a light saber.
Marilyn MacDougall with the Orange County Sheriffs’ Office is one of the big organizers at L.A. end of DreamLift.
MacDougall was also in charge of matching children with sheriffs’ office staff – many of whom were sheriffs and deputy sheriffs.
“My goal is to make sure the kids have a fabulous day,” MacDougall said. “It’s all about the kids.”
That could have been the tagline for the day as many of the volunteers expressed their caring and best wishes for the children as they explored Disneyland.
Donna Muleady with the sheriffs’ office has been coming to DreamLift events for 14 years, and she still stays in contact with her first DreamLift child, and sometimes visits with her in Kelowna.