Seeing dreams come true is one of Capt. Mike Toledo’s greatest pleasures in life.
For nearly two decades the veteran Orange County, Calif. sheriff has had plenty of opportunity to do that as a volunteer escort for many special Canadian children in the magic kingdom that is Disneyland.
“Just to see the kids get off the plane, they’re so excited and when they finally get to Disneyland it’s just amazing,” said Toledo, Wednesday as he watched the growing lineup of customers at the Penticton Wendy’s restaurant during the annual Dreamlift Day fundraiser.
“To see their eyes light up and to watch their expressions as they realize where they are is just such a huge thing for me personally.
“I’m very lucky because I get to see them there (Disneyland) and I also get to come here and see just how the communities involved embrace this.”
Final figures from the event showed another record-breaking day overall for the nine participating restaurants in the Southern Interior with $115,027 raised.
The money comes from the sale of food and beverages along with the wages of staff, management and owners.
So far, in the 19 years of Dreamlift Days a total of $1,224,384 has been achieved.
Through the B.C. Interior Chapter of the Sunshine Foundation, about every other year a chartered jet is hired to fly about 80 children with severe medical problems or life-threatening illnesses to the Anaheim, Calif. park.
The next flight is planned for this December.
Toledo still vividly remembers one particular child he had the pleasure of being with on the 2011 trip.
“The poor thing was wheelchair bound and couldn’t get around very well,” he recalled. “She didn’t want to go on any rides, all she wanted to do was shop, so we pushed that wheelchair up and down Main Street and all through Disneyland and spent the entire day shopping.”
The sheriff added the girl was more intent on buying gifts for friends and family than for herself.
“These kids are just so unselfish, so unselfish,” said Toledo.
Also helping out at the restaurant Wednesday were a number of other VIP volunteers, including Coun. Andrew Jakubeit and former RCMP officer Jim Porteous.
“I’ve got a niece and a cousin who have both benefited from what Wendy’s does with Dreamlift, so it touches home,” said the councillor during a break in the action. “It was just a thrill for them and was something they looked forward to, talked about for months beforehand and talked about for months afterwards.
“It really lifted their spirits and gave them something positive to think about and remember. There are lots of kids in our community who need that.”
Decked out in his dark blue Wendy’s apron, Porteous looked up from his table-clearing duties and agreed: “This is all for the children, to see the gleam in their eyes. It really is a dream come true for them, something they will likely never, ever get to do again in their lives.
“Our society has to look out for the children, they are our future.”