Dreams Take Flight – 2019 – by Lori Zacher

Well, we did it! Another successful Dreams Take Flight!

November 7, 2019 marked the 27th annual Dreams Take Flight journey for 156 children from Calgary (and area) to Disneyland for a whirlwind trip. What a trip! We had children on this trip who are dealing with massive issues – ones that children should not be dealing with. Social issues, economic issues, been in foster care, currently in foster care, parents who are sick or who have passed away, homeless, living with extended family due to parent issues, some battle illness or diseases of their surroundings and have unfortunate/horrid situations at home and so many other struggles! Today – on this day – we want to just make sure they smile. A day of respite, escape, laughter, caring and being safe!

For those who don’t know or wonder how the day works – let me share! First, the ratio for the Calgary chapter is 1 adult:1 child. As the plane is not large enough to carry everyone on the day of, approx. 130 volunteers make their way to Los Angeles in the days leading up and then return in the days after….we all gather to meet the children upon their arrival.

4:00am – children meet at the airport and begin the check in process for their day. This process is nothing like our normal travel, as they do not have passports and do not go through a typical flight check in. They are expedited through security and with their team members, board the decorated plane, hosted by an energetic volunteer Air Canada flight crew.

6:00am – flight departure time. Once airborne, they children continue their party, try to eat breakfast of pancakes, yogurt and snacks.

8:00am(ish) – land in Los Angeles. Our usual greeting point used to be the Lufthansa hanger, but that changed this year. On this day and through a new contact, we met the plane at Atlantic Aviation (FBO services at LAX, a more private hanger and one that most major sports teams, celebrities, government figures, etc. use). The volunteers pulled up in 7 large coach busses and waiting for the children to disembark and join all of the volunteers, completing the teams for the day! Now – onward to Disneyland!

9:30am(ish) – arrive at Disneyland! The 26 teams of 6 children and 6 adults enter the park running – scared, excited, but ready to go! During the day, they try to get on as many rides as they can (Genie Pass/back door entrance), eat as much as they can and just have an amazing time! The team of doctors that travel with us tell the parents – if they want hot dogs, pizza, frozen chocolate banana, cotton candy and 4 churros, they can! This is one day and it won’t hurt to eat what they want. This is the day that no one is telling them to eat their vegetables!

6:00pm – the children start to make their way to the exit. Each child is given some money for souvenir shopping and do so on the way out. We then get back to the buses and pull away, heading back to the airport approx. 7:30pm. After changing the children into a track suit (some of their donated items each child receives for the day), we say goodbye to our  new friends and then they climb the stairs to the plane and depart around 9:00pm.

1:00am – the children land in Calgary, exhausted and happy….for many, this is the last we see or hear of them, as some of their home lives are shuffled and unstable. Some we do hear from, as they send thank you letters and messages.

I was so very fortunate to see all 156 smiling faces. I love being a volunteer, in the recognizable Dreams jersey – the children will just come up and take my hand or talk to me like an old friend, knowing that if I was in the Dreams jersey, I was a safe friend. This day does make a difference. We are now seeing it come full circle. We have 4 active volunteers in the Calgary chapter who were children on a flight in the early years. Now, they are adults and know what Dreams means – they say all the time that one day of Dreams shows them at a young age that there are safe adults, there is hope, there is a future and things change with time. That is why we do it.

To be a part of this is amazing – it is an emotional day and a powerful day. We get to play a part in magic for these children. The impact on me, for each of seven years that I have been involved, is enormous. I walk away each year and count my blessings; count the blessings of those children in my life who will hopefully never know what it would be like to be a Dreams child. And for that, I am grateful.

So much happens throughout the year to make this possible – planning, fundraising, organizing, fundraising, packing, fundraising, and more! All leading up to one day – a very long, full day – but so rewarding and truly magical. Take a moment to watch this short video – a glimpse into our day. And remember, if you every see a chance to donate to this wonderful charity – don’t hesitate. The payback is a twinkle in child’s eyes.


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