YVR to Disneyland and back in a day? If you think that sounds impossible you aren’t alone. However, The Sunshine Foundation of Canada specializes in making impossible dreams a reality, and for 77 Lower Mainland children, their DreamLift to Disneyland became a reality yesterday.
The South Terminal was buzzing at 4:30 a.m. as families from across the Lower Mainland brought their children to YVR for a very special day. DreamLift to Disneyland is a one-day whirlwind adventure for children with severe physical disabilities or life threatening illnesses. DreamLift chartered a 737-800, 154 seat Alaska Airlines aircraft that arrived at South Terminal just after 5:00 a.m.
It takes over 100 volunteers to make this one-day adventure a success. At YVR, we helped to make sure the departure and landing was as smooth and easy for the families as possible. Many of the children have never been away from their parents (children leave their parents behind and are accompanied by Sunshine Foundation staff and volunteers) so it was important to make them feel comfortable. YVR’s partner agencies and organizations stepped up and helped in a variety of ways. Many of the South Terminal carriers had to make changes to their operations in order to allow easy access for the children from the minute they arrived at South Terminal, until they were loaded on the plane and then off again at the end of the night.
Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, US Customs and Border Patrol, Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada, Securiguard and many more helped make sure the morning and late night ran like clockwork and the children were processed through efficiently. Once the aircraft arrived, specially trained volunteers from Richmond Fire-Rescue and YVR’s Emergency Response Team helped lift each child from their wheelchair onto the plane and then repeated the process later at night. Even though it was pouring rain for the majority of the lifting, the volunteers made sure to keep the children dry and kept them laughing and cheering along the way.
The reaction of the children and the parents was incredible and we were proud to be a part of helping bring a little extra magic and cheer to these families this holiday season.