Forget the hassle of international air travel, when it comes to the Sunshine Foundation’s DreamLift trip to Disney World, the plane ride is the easiest part.

After a year’s worth of painstaking planning, nearly 80 London-area children with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses set out on a whirlwind journey to Disney World in Orlando, FL Tuesday morning — the 63rd trip run by the Sunshine Foundation.

The national non-profit has been organizing the day-long international excursions 30 years.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for kids to be on their own and make some choices and have some independence,” said chief executive Nancy Sutherland.

Smiling Emily

Emily Tonner, 12, can’t wait to ride Splash Mountain at Disney World. She’s one of the 80 kids on the Sunshine Foundation’s DreamLift trip to Disney World, an initiative that’s now in its 30th year. (Jennifer Bieman/The London Free Press)

“I’ve seen children really change, just in the course of a day in terms of their confidence.”

About 220 volunteers north and south of the border help get the trip off the ground. Each child has a volunteer that travels with them, along with medical personnel on the plane.

When the charter touches down in Orlando, members of the Orange County Sheriff’s office and Drug Enforcement Administration will help get the children off the plane and on the bus to Disney World.

The Sunshine kids get to choose their own adventure when they get to the theme park, from the rides they go on to what they eat and the souvenirs they bring back with them.

“This is a chance for them to be in charge,” Sutherland said.

The DreamLift trips run on the generosity of volunteers, sponsors and community partners like the London International Airport, Sutherland said.

The payoff, for her, is seeing the children return from Disney World energized, enthusiastic and full of confidence.

“You get to see the kids with their souvenirs, they’re all kind of sticky from cotton candy and they’ve had an amazing time and they’re very excited to see mom and dad again,” Sutherland said.

Since 1987, the London-based charity has fulfilled more than 8,5000 dreams for children across Canada.

Sunshine Foundation DreamLift

  • 365 days of planning
  • 220 volunteers
  • 80 children participating
  • 63rd DreamLift trip
  • 30th year the Sunshine Foundation has organized the trips
  • 18 hour trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL

Source: Sunshine kids soar toward Disney World adventure | The London Free Press

London Fire Fighters and many other volunteers donated they time and expertise to assist with this great event.