Gerry Dearing spoke to us about the work of the Sunshine Foundation Canada, an organisation that makes dreams come true for children aged 7 – 18 who have disabilities or life threatening illnesses. They have been operating for 50 years and serve kids from across Canada.
 
Their aim is not just to bring joy but also to help the children build resilience and confidence.  Children dream up their own experiences and then the Foundation provides a team who can provide specialised equipment, medical expertise and about 6 months of planning to make it happen.
 
All dreams are examined by a medical advisor team to make sure it is possible and safe for the child to undertake the dream.
 
Some dreams are modest – like to child who wanted an accessible swing in his school playground, others require months of preparation to help a child get ready for their dream day.  The preparation is a big part of the program and gives the child a sense of agency and independence.  It also represents a chance to plan for something that is not part of their on-going challenges with medical conditions.  Individual dream experiences involve the whole family.
 
There is also a group component to the Sunshine Foundation’s work. Periodically, they do a DREAM LIFT for a whole plane-full of 80 children who spend one day going to Disneyland. Children from the eastern parts of Canada go to Disneyland Florida and those from Western Canada go to Disneyland California.  The trip is undertaken in one very long day and the children travel independently from their families.  Teams of volunteers accompany the children, and a “Team Orange” – named for the fact that Disneyland is in Orange County in both locations – meets them at the airport to take care of their needs while they are visiting Disneyland.  
 
It is a remarkable effort and a magical day for all concerned as the children make new friends and have experiences that can truly be called a chance in a life-time.
 
The Foundation, though it only has 12 staff, is planning to expend its operation in BC.  They currently alternate the Dream Lift between East and West coasts and only do one trip every 4 years coming from the West.  
 
As Gerry said, their efforts are all about the kids hearing and experiencing “yes” in their lives.