Wednesday morning, 2.30am, and my alarm is ringing on the opposite side of the bedroom. I have to get up to switch it off. Quick shower and a banana before heading off to Humberside airport. Passport – check, warm clothes – check, it’s the day of the When You Wish Upon A Star Lapland Flight.
This was to be my 16th Lapland. Each trip is different, each is magical. We’ve got a brilliant group of “team leaders” who help make the day happen.
As I arrived at the airport some of the families were already there, others arriving. The Lapland trip is a magical day in the Charity’s calendar, we take around 90 children to Lapland to see Father Christmas. Every child has their own story to tell. Every child is on the trip for a reason. All have terminal, lifelong or life limiting illnesses, but the trip is a day when all of this can be put to one side, and is a day for smiles and laughter.
Once the aircraft is boarded we taxi on to the run way for the pilot to come over the PA system and start a countdown 5,4, 3,2, 1 blast-off before the engines fire up and we hurtle down the runway for take-off. There’s no in-flight movie and instead we have a magician, balloon modelling and a sing a long led by Kammy (Chris Kamara) – this flight is “unbelievable”.
About half an hour from landing we all start to put on our warm clothing. On landing it’s a mild -4, warm by Laplands standards. We head to the forest where we are greeted by woodland creatures and our hosts dressed in traditional Lappish clothes. There is a wonderful BBQ with hot sausages, a fire to toast marshmallows and the most wonderful hot chocolate. The children head off in different directions and have the most wonderful time on Husky rides, Reindeer sleighs, Skidoos and toboggans. We can all enjoy ourselves safe in the knowledge that there is an expert medical team on hand just in case any of the children need some support on the day.
There is only a couple of hours of daylight in Lapland and the light soon starts to fail as a firework display tells us it’s time to get back on the coaches and head to a hotel for lunch.
After a scrumptious hot buffet we then start to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in the hope that Father Christmas will hear the singing and bring presents for the children. Our celebrity guests and aircrew take centre stage to lead the singing and in a short space of time the big man himself is seen walking past the hotel with Rudolph. The children’s eyes are wide open with excitement, some of the grown-ups discreetly wipe away a tear, Rudolph is made to wait outside (past experience says he is not yet fully house-trained) and one by one the children meet Father Christmas, share the secrets of what presents they want, confirm they have been good and leave their letters. Hopefully some of the children put in a good word for the team leaders – no doubt I will find out in a couple of weeks! Father Christmas leaves all the children with a gift before leaving with a jolly ho ho ho!
We then head off to Santa’s Village, a magical little spot where it’s possible to visit his post office, play on ice slides and cross in to the Arctic circle.
It’s then back to the airport for theflight home. There are lot of tired people on the flight, but the party continues. On arrival back at Humberside there are carol singers and presents for the children.
Quote of the day for me was from Kate, a truly wonderful young person, who summed it all up in one sentence “Lapland is epic!” Too right, it’s an honour and a privilege to be a team leader on this trip. All I can say to Kate and the other children and their families is thank you for letting me be a part of your magical day. May the memories live on forever. There will be days out there that will be tough for these families, but if I’ve helped make a difference I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been able to do it.
Finally we are blessed with the skill and dedication of Gary Payne who takes a record breaking number of photographs each year and truly captures the excitement and spirit of the day. I appreciate everyone is busy but take a few minutes out of your day and have a look at https://www.facebook.com/Joatwish where you too can share in the magic that is the When You Wish Upon A Star Lapland trip.