A dream come true

Penticton youngster will be among the special kids headed off on next week’s Dreamlift to Disney

Serenity Craigie-Manson

Serenity Craigie-Manson

Six sleeps and counting.

For seven-year-old Serenity Craigie-Manson of Penticton and about 80 other special kids from the Interior, that’s all the time remaining before boarding the Alaska Airlines jet which will whisk them away to the Magic Kingdom in southern California.

Through the Sunshine Foundation of Canada’s Dreamlift to Disney program, kids between the ages of three and 18, challenged by severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, get to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime during an emotional, fun-filled day at the park.

“Pooh and roller coaster,” said Serenity when asked what she was looking forward to the most. “And the plane, it’s my first time.”

The jet is to depart Kelowna International Airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday, arriving to a hero’s welcome in Anaheim three hours later.

At John Wayne International Airport they will meet up with the members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department who will be their special guides for the day.

RCMP members dressed in traditional red serge will also be on the ground to greet them.

Last week, McNicoll Park Middle School hosted a party for Serenity and some of the other youngsters who will be going this year.

There they had a chance to hear a little bit about the trip and talk to some of the kids who had been on previous Dreamlifts.

“It was just a fantastic trip and I’m so glad I had a chance to go,” said Chase Moog, 13, who went on the 2009 sojourn. “I’m going to tell the people who are going on this trip to just relax, have fun and meet new people.”

However, for him, the best part was just being with others who have challenges of their own.

“You could just meet the kids on the trip and know about them because everyone there had a problem and so they were the same as you basically,” he said. “It made it a lot more relaxing and a lot more fun, you could just enjoy yourself and not worry about what other people were doing or saying.”

His friend, Drew Boileau, was also on that trip and agreed: “It was really good to be with the other kids who had problems because we all knew what we were going through and it’s really important to just be able to put all that aside even for just one day.”

Both expressed their gratitude to Wendy’s Restaurants and the Sunshine Foundation for giving them an opportunity they would not have otherwise had.

Lynn Langille a vision resource teacher who works with Serenity and other vision-impaired students in the district, has noticed the difference the day makes in the kids’ lives.

“When they come back, they’re a little bit empowered because they’ve had this amazing experience of going to the most magical place on Earth,” said Langille, who will be going again this year. “They want to share it, so they often do a presentation for their classrooms or their schools and it just gives them that chance to feel special in a different way, a real positive way.

“They do know they’re different and often these kids are the only ones at their school who have a disability and they feel isolated, but not on this day.”

She pointed out there is a comfort level between peers with similar disabilities without the pressure of always trying to keep up with the others.

And there is the added bonus of seeing them in a setting other than the class environment.

“We get to learn about daily life things that we maybe need to assist them with when we get back,” said the instructor. “Or we get to see exactly the opposite, the things that we didn’t know they were capable of doing.”

This will be the fifth trip since John Tietzen of Inland Restaurants, which operates the nine Interior Wendy’s, began the project in 1995.

In the initial year, just over $10,000 was raised and it has since grown into one of the most successful campaigns of its kind in Canada, having brought in nearly a million dollars.

On that day, the salaries of Wendy’s staff, management and owners along with proceeds from the sales are donated to the cause.

Many celebrities and local dignitaries as well Orange County Sheriffs, B.C. Ambulance, RCMP and fire department members also help out at the restaurants.

Tietzen recently received the Wayne C. Dunn Spirit of Service Award from the Sunshine Foundation, however, he was quick to direct the praise to the volunteers, restaurant employees (past and present) and management.

“We have given people at a young age the opportunity to learn what giving back is all about,” said the owner. “Our staff, along with the people who patiently wait in line on Dreamlift Day, are helping people they don’t even know.”

People like Serenity, who is excitedly awaiting that one more sleep Monday night.

 

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read