Nearly 200 seriously ill children taken on dream holiday to Florida

Nearly 200 seriously ill children taken on dream holiday to Florida
Scarlett Jackson, 10, from Doncaster, swims with a dolphin during the Dreamflight visit to Discovery Cove (Picture: PA)

Nearly 200 sick, seriously ill and disadvantaged children from around the UK have been taken on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to America.

The kids – who were all nominated by doctors, nurses and careworkers across Britain – spent 10 days in Florida on the annual Dreamflight holiday.

The 192 children, some of whom require round-the-clock care, visited SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Disney World during an all-adventure tour of the Sunshine State.

For many, this was their first time away from home. Volunteer healthcare professionals acted as chaperones on the charity-funded holiday.

As a final treat, children were given the opportunity to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando.

Abbie Boast, 14, from Great Yarmouth, swims with a dolphin during the Dreamflight visit to Discovery Cove in Orlando (Picture: PA)

George Bailey, 12, from Walsall – for a lot of the kids this was their first trip away from home (Picture: PA)

They went to Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida (Picture: PA)

Several of the kids were lifted carefully from their wheelchairs and helped into the water, while others overcame acute phobias to take part.

It was a dream come true for 12-year-old Libbie Smith from Sheffield, who was born with holes in her heart. After another child pulled out, she got a last-minute place on the trip.

‘My granddad asked me in September what I wanted to do in the future and I just said, “Go to Florida to swim with dolphins”,’ she said. ‘He sadly passed away on October 1, and on October 9 I found out I was going on Dreamflight.

‘He used to love dolphins, and I feel as though he was watching over me when I was swimming with them today. He’d probably be saying: “That’s my little darling”.’

Adam Proctor, 13, from Garvagh in Londonderry, said: ‘I was always feeling excited about coming, and I have learnt that it’s OK to be different because everybody out here is different.’

Dawud Ghafar, 15, From Leeds – the trip was a dream come true for the children (Picture: PA)

Jaz Ellis, 8, From Poole, Dorset – carers and trainers were on hand to help the children (Picture: PA)

Emily Willis, 10, from Newcastle – as well as being able to swim with dolphins, the kids went to Universal Studios and Disney World (Picture: PA)

Ayesha Sheldrake-Hemphrey, 11, from Ipswich – almost 200 children went on the trip (Picture: PA)

Adam Proctor, 13 , from Derry, said he had learned that it was ‘OK to be different’ (Picture: PA)

The charity is celebrating its 31st year, having been supported by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, for its maiden flight.

The overall trip costs around £800,000 and covers everything – from a chartered British Airways jet to 235 hotel rooms, 12 buses and three meals a day for 420 people.

Its founder Pat Pearce, 73, said that only four employees receive a salary, while the rest of the work is carried out by volunteers.

Jaz Ellis, 8, From Poole, Dorset hugs Dreamflight founder Pat Pearce MBE after swimming with a dolphin (Picture: PA)

‘I think it’s the smiles on the children’s faces that make it worth it for everyone, every year,’ she said.

‘Even the bigger boys in the group have come up to me, given me a hug, and said how grateful they are for Dreamflight. They have achieved things, done things they wouldn’t have done before, and they are so happy. That’s special, for me.’

So far, since it started, 5,830 children have been on a Dreamflight holiday.

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