Some very precious cargo was out on the tarmac at the Edmonton International Airport early one morning last month: dreams that came in the shape of 136 little bodies.
Children from across Oil Country, who face social, physical or mental challenges, were wired with the news they were off to the Happiest Place on Earth. “I screamed when I found out I was going to Disneyland, I’ve never been before and I’ve never been on an airplane,” said 11 year old Jayde. Regardless of the difficult circumstances these children may face, spending the day in sunny California promised a carefree day where the focus would be on fun.
Once in the air, each child received a new outfit and a backpack containing an autograph book and sharpie in preparation for Disney-celebrity sightings. After landing in California and then arriving to the site of the Disney castle, the children were enchanted by everything they saw. “I was excited to go on the Pirate ride and to see Belle and Cinderella,” said Jayde. But some children were simply smitten with the palm trees blowing in the breeze overhead and the ducks swimming in the ponds.
“The experience of Dreams Take Flight is really unique to every child,” says one of the Directors of Dreams Take Flight Edmonton. “As adults I think we automatically think that the highlight of the trip is going to be the excitement of the rides in Disneyland but, in talking to the kids, you really find out that the whole day is packed with exciting new experiences.”
The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) has supported the non-profit Dreams organization since 2003, contributing over $58,000 through gifts for the gala and proceeds from the 50/50 program. The Foundation also helps out with volunteers, who are integral to ensuringa great and safe experience. The Foundation’s Erin Barrett volunteered as a chaperone and appreciated every moment with her group.
“It is so exciting to see life through the eyes of a child. For many, it was their first time on a plane and watching them look out the window with wonder was really special,” said Barrett. “It makes you remember the magic of being a child and what it is like to really believe that Mickey Mouse lives in Toon Town!”
Dreams Take Flight grants a complete VIP-experience to the kids. On top of their action-packed day, each child received $50 to spend on souvenirs and, overwhelmingly, the kids were more eager to buy gifts for their family and friends rather than for themselves. Erin’s group of six increased with the addition of some familiar, albeit stuffed, faces: Yoda, Mickey, Minnie and Lady, from Lady and the Tramp. Even after leaving Disney’s grounds, the magic didn’t stop as the children received backpacks full of goodies to take home and enjoy back in Edmonton.
“Youth wellness is a primary pillar of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and we’re thrilled to support Dreams Take Flight,” said Natalie Minckler, Executive Director of the Foundation. “This trip provides kids the opportunity to be kids; their smiles and joy speak to this entirely.”
As the wheels hit the tarmac back in Edmonton, Jayde and the other children bid goodbye to their new friends but home the magic of the day and memories that will last a lifetime.