The following article is a summary of the recent Dreams Take Flight trip to Walt Disney World on May 6, 7, and 8 by Phillip King.

The London Professional Fire Fighters Association has been a proud participant and sponsor with the Dreams Take Flight program for the past 15 years.  The charity was created and is run by employees of Air Canada all volunteering their time for this rewarding program to help children experience a trip of a lifetime. There are several site locations across the country that participate in the program.  We are part of the Toronto group.  This year was extra special as it was the 25th anniversary of the Dreams Take Flight program.

In London, we work alongside a long-time partner, the Boys and Girls Club in choosing the four children (2 Girls and 2 Boys) from London to participate in the trip.  The children selected take part in a three day whirlwind getaway with the highlight being a day in Walt Disney Worlds Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

London Fire Captain Steve Joudrey, Fire Fighter/ Apparatus Operator Randy Geene and myself have been involved with Dreams Take Flight / London from the onset to help create the magical moments for the children.  Each year, the Association, with co-operation from the London Fire Department host the very unique Dreams Take Flight Car Wash & BBQ at Central Fire Hall.  Proceeds raised at this event help to offset the costs associated with sponsoring the trip each year.

This year’s Car Wash will be on Saturday, June 21st, from 9am to 3pm at Central Fire Hall, located at 400 Horton Street in London.  Having your vehicle pre-rinsed by a fire truck, washed inside the fire hall by our volunteers and then receiving a final rise from two fire hoses all help create a car wash experience like no other.

Below is a quick synopsis of the events of this year’s trip that took place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (May 6, 7, 8).  I was lucky enough to be the one escorting the children on this year’s trip.

Preparing to head to the airport

Preparing to head to the airport

The trip began for the children on Tuesday morning with a bus ride from the Boys and Girls Club to #2 Fire Hall for some pictures to be taken with Steve, Randy and myself with an LFD Fire Truck as our backdrop.  From there the children are taken out to the airport for our flight to Toronto in the Fire Truck.  The parents follow us out to the airport for a few last minute hugs and well wishes.  Every year a few tears are shed, mostly by the parents, as often this is the first time their children have been away from them.

Then it’s on to our Air Jazz flight for the children’s first airplane ride. We fly to Toronto Pearson Airport where we are greeted by Elmo and some Air Canada personnel.  From there we are shuttled to the Toronto Fairfield Inn for an afternoon of swimming, games, lots of food and a gift bag full of goodies.  It’s a nonstop party that lasts until bedtime at 8pm.

Boarding the plane for Florida

Boarding the plane for Florida

Wednesday morning brings about a very early wakeup call at 4am, followed by a bus ride to an awaiting Air Canada hanger where the send-off party takes place.  The looks on the children’s faces is priceless when the countdown reaches zero and the hanger doors finally open up to reveal the Air Canada A330 Airbus along with the entire crew awaiting the children for their magical flight.  A picture of the entire group attending (approximately 300) is taken alongside the aircraft.  Once everyone has boarded the plane and we take off at approximately 7am the real fun begins.  The children are so wound up they can hardly contain their excitement. It is one giant party in the air as we head for Orlando, Florida. When we land we are greeted right on the tarmac by the tour buses for our final leg of our trip to the Magic Kingdom.

Because we are there for such a short time Disney makes special arrangements for our group to use the fast pass entrance.  This helps to minimise the wait times at the various shows and rides.

Enjoying a Magical Day at Disney

Enjoying a Magical Day at Disney

We spend approximately the next eight hours enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney, including partaking in many of the kid’s favourite rides like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain, as well as taking in many of the shows throughout the day. Towards the end of the day the children also receive some spending money to purchase some personal souvenirs for themselves or family members or friends.

Then it’s back on the tour busses and off to the airport to begin our trip back to Toronto.  The energy and noise level on the return flight is extremely low as most of the kids are sound asleep by the time they fall into their seats.

Once we arrive back in Toronto at the Air Canada hanger we prepare the kids for departure.  The day started Wednesday morning at 4am and its now 1:30am Thursday morning.  We have a plane full of very tired children.  When we are finally able to wake all the kids and have everything packed up we proceed to the hanger and we receive yet another bag stuffed full of gifts and treats as we head for the busses.  The day is finally complete when we arrive back at the Fairfield Inn for a good night’s sleep.

Dreams Take Flight & Disney create Magical Moments

Dreams Take Flight & Disney create Magical Moments

After sleeping in until about 9:30am Thursday, we have breakfast at the hotel and then onto the airport for our return trip back home.  When we touch down in London we are greeted by smiling family members anxious to hear all about the children’s magical adventure.

Hearing the phrase, “It was the best day of my life” from many of the children really makes it all worthwhile. To date, we have helped in creating some Disney Magic for 60 children as part of this fantastic program over the last 15 years.

It makes me proud of the work we do in our community as members of the LPFFA.