Bolton: Seriously ill children to swim with dolphins


A 14-year-old girl from Bolton is one of almost 200 who have battled serious illness, disabilty or trauma children who have taken off on a charity-funded dream holiday to Florida.

For the first time since the pandemic, youngsters from across the UK are being taken on the trip of a lifetime, organised by Dreamflight.

Before boarding a specially chartered British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport, they were greeted with music played by a marching band, as well as dogs from the Metropolitan Police.

Safa Thagia, from Bolton has expressed her excitement for the experience, especially getting to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove.

And this is thought to be the highlight of the trip for many, for which the charity has raised £1m.

(Credit: PA) Children leave a hangar event at Heathrow Airport as part of the Dreamflight charity trip, ahead of boarding a specially chartered British Airways jet from Heathrow Airport to Florida. (Image: PA)

She said: “I’m really excited for the whole experience, there’s going to be a lot of great activities and memories I’ll have for my whole life.

“I can’t wait to be swimming with dolphins, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The 192 children, who have been picked to join the 10-day holiday in Orlando having battled serious illness, disability, or trauma, cheered, and stroked the dogs as they arrived.

Ashton Owen, 12, from Trefechan, South Wales, said: “I want to hug a dolphin – that will be unbelievable and something I won’t forget.”

Harvey Walker, 15, from Poole, Dorset, who had been on the list for the trip that got cancelled last year, said: “I’m a bit nervous, but also excited – it’s my first trip without my parents.”

(Credit: PA) Children leave a hangar event at Heathrow Airport as part of the Dreamflight charity trip, ahead of boarding a specially chartered British Airways jet from Heathrow Airport to Florida. (Image: PA)

The children will visit a host of attractions, including SeaWorld, Disney World and Universal Studios.

For many, it will be the first time abroad without their families.

Paralympic gold medal swimmer and Dreamflight patron Liz Johnson, who went on the trip as an 11-year-old in 1997, said: “A lot of these young people spend their whole life being the odd one out, whereas here, there’s a lot of authentic inclusion.

“Their differences are normalised, and they’ve got the best group of volunteers looking after them, so they can just feel empowered to find themselves.”

Lisa Bishop, fundraising manager at Dreamflight, said: “As this is the first trip since the pandemic, it’s absolutely huge – we’ve got some children who were nominated in 2019.

“We have raised £1 million for this year’s holiday.”

More than 6,000 children from across the country have been involved in Dreamflight holidays since the first one in 1987.

(Credit: PA) Police officers wearing decorative helmets escort buses carrying children from all over the UK as part of the Dreamflight charity trip, as they arrive for a Hangar event ahead of boarding a specially chartered British Airways jet from Heathrow Airport to Florida. (Image: PA)

This is the 34th trip put on by the charity.

Patricia Pearce, who founded Dreamflight, said: “It was quite an emotional day because we haven’t done this in three years and to be back together is very special.”

Director of flight operations at British Airways, Captain Al Bridger, said: “It’s an absolute privilege for us to be involved – we’ve missed this through Covid.

“To be back again is wonderful.”

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