Around 200 disadvantaged, seriously ill and recovering children have embarked on a charity-funded holiday-of-a-lifetime to Florida.
Youngsters from across the UK were given a raucous welcome as they gathered at Heathrow Airport to board a specially chartered British Airways flight as part of the annual Dreamflight charity adventure.
The passengers were chosen to join the holiday, now in its 33rd year, by doctors and medical experts, having battled with serious illness, disability and trauma.
They will visit a host of attractions, including SeaWorld, Disney World and Universal Studios during their fortnight in the States, accompanied by a legion of medics, chaperones and support volunteers.
Paralympic gold medal swimmer and Dreamflight patron Liz Johnson said: “As an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy, my Dreamflight experience empowered me to embrace difference and opportunity with increased confidence and removed a subconscious dependence that I had on my immediate support network.
“This enabled me to unlock my potential and follow my dreams – I can’t wait to support this year’s young people in their quest to do the same with the added bonus of developing their swimming abilities.”
BA captain Andy Raynes, who operated the flight to Orlando, said: “It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be flying Dreamflight for the 10th year running.
“I leave London as a pilot and arrive as a helper and chaperone, it’s a truly humbling experience. What’s even more special is to see how far the children come in such a short space of time – that’s what drives me to come back each year.”
More than 6,000 children from across the country have been involved in Dreamflight holidays since the first trip in 1987 – set up by former BA cabin crew member Patricia Pearce – with the charity needing to raise around £500,000 each year to fund the experience.
For more information visit www.dreamflight.org.