Dreams Take Flight is a national volunteer charitable organization with eight branches across Canada. Every year, each of the branches organizes a trip to Disneyland for a group of socially, physically or mentally challenged children.
The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation has been supporting Dreams Take Flight for many years through silent auction donations and most recently through the in-game 50/50 draw. This year’s flight, whose estimated cost is $150,000, received the proceeds of the Glenn Anderson retirement night 50/50. In addition, members of the Oilers staff volunteered as chaperones for the annual trip to Disneyland. Oilers Family Liaison, Jill Metz has gone on the trip for the past two years and this year, Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Executive Director, Natalie Minckler joined her for the first time.
“Each year there have been experiences that range from hilarious to heart wrenching,” said Jill. ”Unfortunately, there are some sad stories or situations which make you realize just how wonderful it is for these kids to leave all their worries behind for a day and that is why I want to continue to help.”
Two weeks before the flight, the children and volunteer chaperones all gather together. The children arrive with no idea they are about to be surprised with a trip to Disneyland. “It’s great to see the children’s reaction when they learn about the surprise,” said Tom Hutchison, President of Dreams Take Flight Edmonton. “They’re outfitted with new shoes and gear for the big day, we really try to give them the whole experience.”
“This trip lets the kids be kids, from the moment they arrive at the airport they are treated like the most important people in the world,” said Natalie. “Many said it was best day of their life and you knew it was true; the sheer joy and sparkle in their eyes was obvious. The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation is delighted to support this worthwhile cause.”
Anyone involved with this annual adventure gets to experience the positive impact this trip has on the children. This year one of the Edmonton Oilers got to see the excitement first-hand, when Jason Strudwick and his wife Schoena, who happened to also be heading out of town, ran into the kids as they were eating breakfast at the airport. Jason got to meet the children and help to send them off on their adventure.
Although it is a long day, it is one filled with excitement and fun for these kids, many who have never flown on an airplane before. They get to meet their favourite Disney characters, try out all the rides and visit one of the most exciting places on the planet.
“At the end of the day, each child receives Disney dollars to purchase a few souvenirs and I just love seeing what the kids buy because it shows each of their personalities,” said Jill. “As we board the plane home to Edmonton, the kids each proudly carry their unique keepsakes from sparkling Minnie Mouse shoes, Pirate costumes, coffee mugs for their teachers to stuffed toys for siblings at home. It is such a fun way to wrap up an incredible day.”
To learn more about Dreams Take Flight, please visit dreamstakeflight.ca. To make a financial donation to Dreams Take Flight, please fill out this donation form and the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation will direct your donation accordingly.