Thirteen children from Red Deer recently experienced the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland through the partnerships of the Dreams Take Flight Club.
The Dreams Take Flight Club is a national organization that was started by Air Canada. A plane is donated fully staffed to the Club annually to take children to Disneyland who would not otherwise have the opportunity. Various community groups identify children in need and fundraisers are organized throughout the year to expense the trip.
Jeff Rock got involved with the trips through Gaetz United Church and said the experience is extremely fun and rewarding.
“It’s for kids who are identified by their teachers or volunteer organizations who need something special. Some of the kids are in care with foster parents, some of them are kids with special needs or some have behavioural issues. All of them are identified through another organization as those who need a little help,” Rock said.
The local Club works together with the Edmonton organization to make the day a possibility. Calgary also has a program as well as various other cities across the country.
“It is the most intense day of the year for these young kids and seeing the joy on their faces is absolutely spectacular. There is one volunteer for every two kids, so they are well supervised and well cared for,” Rock said.
“The group gets on a plane at six in the morning and flies to Disneyland – we don’t even go through customs. We have our own sort of bee-lined version where we get out at the hanger, get on a bus, get to Disneyland and spend the day there. We get back on the plane and are back around midnight.”
Parents, teachers, Dreams Take Flight organizers and volunteer association members get together in secret to fill out paperwork for children who have been identified for the program. The children are gathered together for a day in Edmonton, where they are surprised with the announcement of their trip to Disneyland.
“It’s amazing to see. The kids cry and laugh and get so excited,” Rock said with a smile.
Children are identified through organizations such as the Gaetz United Church, Red Deer Public and Catholic School Districts, and the Boys and Girls Club Red Deer District, a branch of the Youth and Volunteer Centre of Red Deer.
Kathleen Reid of Gaetz United Church said the churches first involvement in the program was May 2001. Her mother was the first female chaperone for the event and now Reid continues to stay involved.
“At that time six children from Red Deer got to go. Gaetz United teamed up with Red Deer schools and talked with counsellors, administration and teachers to find possible candidates to take on the trip,” Reid said.
“The past few years Youth and Volunteer Centre has been an agency as well. Between Gaetz United Church and the Youth and Volunteer Centre we sent 13 kids this year. We meet with parents in the spring to fill out paperwork, secretly of course, so the children don’t know. Typically the parents and the agency find out late August or early September who is approved to be on the trip.”
To get involved with the local Dreams Take Flight Club go to www.dreamstakeflight.ca or connect through Gaetz United Church or the Youth and Volunteer Centre.