For nine-year-old Nathaniel Morgan of Penticton there were no mountains too tall to conquer in Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom Park on his visit last month.
Partnered with his faithful guides, Queens Park Elementary school principal Rob Zoppi and Jack Mullvain of the Orange County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department, the youngster overcame all challenges he faced.
Nate was among the more than 50 children who boarded an early-morning jet at Kelowna International Airport to be whisked away to the enchanted paradise for the VIP tour.
“It was a lot of fun and I liked Space Mountain the best, it was real fast,” said Nate, who has muscular dystrophy. “I would really like to go back again.”
The trips are organized through the Interior chapter of the Sunshine Foundation of Canada - an independent charity - for kids with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.
Money to make these biannual dream trips a reality come from the Wendy’s Restaurant DreamLift Day.
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the Penticton Wendy’s will join the eight other participating franchises with the goal of raising over $100,000.
From 6 a.m. to closing net sales along with staff, management and owner’s wages will go towards the next trip to Disneyland, likely in 2015.
For Zoppi, going with the kids was something to cross off the bucket list.
He recalled most vividly Nate’s smile and excitement.
“He really decided he would go a little bit out of his comfort level and try some rides and do some things that he may not have done without the opportunity to challenge himself,” said the principal. “The whole day was just amazing, it was all about the kids and not what they couldn’t do but what they could.
“Nate smiled from the get go to the end. Even coming home of the plane he was exhausted but he was still riding on fumes. I think it will be something that he, and I, will never forget.
However, Zoppi admitted his third consecutive trip on the Space Mountain ride did take its toll.
Nate’s mother Jackie-Lee recalls picking up a very tired, but very happy son at the airport at the end of the trip around midnight.
“He was exhausted but he smiled and the next day he told me about all the exciting stuff at Disneyland,” she recalled.
“He is still able to walk and just uses his electric wheelchair on bad days and this trip was just an amazing opportunity for him.”
This was the longest the two had been apart (without family care) and while she was worried prior, was very glad he went.
Someone else on his first DreamLift to Disneyland was Wendy’s area partner Todd Lewis.
“Until you actually see it you just don’t realize how much it means to these kids,” said Lewis. “I saw what the kids experienced, I experienced some of it with them, I know what it does.
“Seeing the perseverance and the energy.
Five sheriffs will be coming to the Interior for this year’s DreamLift Day, including Mike Toledo who will be back in Penticton.
According to Lewis the real stars of the show are area residents who each year wait patiently in long lines.
“There are a lot of fundraisers that make more money than this one but the unique thing is we make it $5 at a time because of such an outpouring of support from the community,”he said.
“We’ve done this for 20 years now but for probably for the last 10 this engine’s been running itself because of our customers.”