On Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017, Sunshine celebrated our 62nd Sunshine DreamLift with 79 young dreamers experiencing a magical day of Yes! Taking off from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, children from Brantford, Hamilton and Waterloo Region came together for a 20 hour day filled with fun, friendship and new experiences.
It started with a 4am meetup at the airport with hugs and kisses goodbye from Mom and Dad and some extra hugs from Sunshine Bear. For many of the 79 children living with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, Sunshine DreamLift is their first time away from parents or guardians and/or their first time on an airplane. Accompanied by a caring network of medical and community volunteers and support staff, the children are encouraged to embrace the day of independence, step outside of their comfort zone and enjoy being a kid.
“As the plane took off, the energy was just electric,” said one volunteer. “It was as if we were already on one of the rollercoasters at Disney”
Upon arriving at Orlando International Airport, Sunshine DreamLift was greeted by volunteer officers and agents from long-time Sunshine supporters the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Air Marshalls, and the DEA. The mounted officers and motorcycles that circled the plane helped keep spirits up as the rain started to come down.
Luckily the rain didn’t last too long into the adventure and the dreamers were able to explore the magical world of Disney with all the wonder and excitement that each child feels in the happiest place on earth.
The children participating in this Sunshine DreamLift program were referred by medical professionals and healthcare workers from McMaster Children’s Hospital, KidsAbility, Lansdowne Children’s Centre, CNIB and The Ear and Hearing Clinic with Julianne Shantz. With 30 years of experience working with experts in the health care field, Sunshine ensures that children with even the most complex conditions can take part in the Sunshine DreamLift program by matching them to specialized support volunteers, healthcare workers, and emergency service personnel, all of whom will accompany the flight to provide the care and physical assistance required for each child to have the best Sunshine DreamLift experience.
After a full day of adventure abroad and another exciting plane ride, the Sunshine DreamLift was greeted at home just after midnight by a crowd of Sunshine volunteers, airport staff, and parents with tears in their eyes (and some rolling down their faces) beaming with pride to see their brave children come home with a newfound sense of independence and confidence.
This 62nd Sunshine DreamLift was made possible by the generous contributions and volunteer commitment of local Brantford and region businesses and community partners. This “Dream Team” of leadership sponsors includes RBC Royal Bank, S.C. Johnson, A Family Company, Brantford Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 460, Brantford Expositor, and Sofina Foods, in addition to numerous donors and business supporters across the region including Speed Fastening Systems Inc, Conestoga College Pre-Service Firefighters, and Conestoga College Police Foundations program. A special thank you also goes out to the staff at John C. Munro Hamilton Airport for all their wonderful support as well as those from the Best Western Brantford Hotel and Conference Centre and Fat Panda Studios.