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Sunshine kids scream for California

Casey Wright is excited about his pending trip to Disneyland. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Casey Wright is excited about his pending trip to Disneyland.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Clasping his hands together, Casey Wright shudders with anticipation when he thinks about his upcoming trip to Disneyland.

With only a couple more weeks to go before he leaves, his excitement beams through his eyes.

He can’t wait to meet Mickey Mouse, his favourite character, and he wants to go on a lot of rides.

“Absolutely, if I’m allowed,” he exclaimed, hoping he is tall enough.

“Especially the California Screamin’,” said Casey, not knowing that he is referring to one of Disney’s fastest attractions, and the eighth longest roller coaster in the world, and  has a height requirement of just over four feet.

“A bunch of people have been telling me, ‘Oh yeah, you should go on the California Screamin’,” he said.

“They say that you get to skip to the front of the line,” Casey continued.

“I don’t know how the normal patrons feel about that.”

Casey, 12, has an inoperable brain tumour.

“Still there today,” said the Maple Ridge elementary student, tapping the top of his head to indicate the location.

Diagnosed as a baby with Astrocytoma, a slow growing brain tumor that causes growing pressure inside the skull, he has undergone rounds of chemotherapy as a young child.

Due to the tumour, he is small for his age and, although he is not blind, he struggles with visual impairment.

Currently he is no longer going through therapy and his tumour has remained stable for the past six years.

Although his favourite subject at school is science, Casey would like to work at the Vancouver Mail Sorting Facility when he grows up. A decision he made after going on a tour of the site.

Casey will be traveling to Disneyland in California through the Sunshine Foundation of Canada’s DreamLift program.

Every four years the local branch of the Sunshine Foundation transports a plane full of children who suffer from severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, their volunteer buddies and necessary doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to a special destination, usually Disneyland.

On Dec. 11, 80 children from across the Lower Mainland will board the plane at 5 a.m. at Vancouver International Airport.

“It takes a couple of hours to load the plane because there’s about 30 kids in wheelchairs,” said volunteer Lauralee Germain.

Once boarded, the children will fly almost three hours to Anaheim, where they will be greeted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

When they are paired up, on average two volunteers and one sheriff per child, they will board a bus for the theme park.

The children will get to spend at least six hours at the park, with a priority pass that lets them bypass the line for whatever rides they want to go on. Only after the nightly fireworks will they return home.

Their plane will land in Vancouver at midnight, and after another couple of hours unloading the plane, most won’t get home until 3 a.m.

Germain, who went on the DreamLift trip in 2008, says the children are really patient.

“I mean, you and I going on a flight, if we had to wait three hours for the plane to load, we’d be like, ‘Oh my God!’ But the kids, they honestly don’t even think about it. They are so excited to go. And then on the way back, they are talking about how much fun they had,” Germain said.

Casey understands how long the day will be, but is more concerned for the other children than he is for himself.

Although he gets tired from a lot of walking, he insists he is better now.

“I’ve been recovering from chemo for years and years, so I’m getting stronger,” said Casey .

“It’ll be tough for some of the other children because, well, with physical disabilities like wheelchair kids, it takes a little bit out of them.”

Money for the DreamLift is raised through an annual golf tournament at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows.

This year $160,253 was raised for the current DreamLift.

Any leftover money will go towards individual dreams that cost up to $5,000 each.

DreamLift is important, says Germain, because a lot of families can’t afford the expense by themselves and they also can’t afford to spend the night because of the medical issues their children have.

“So, it’s just one day to be just a regular kid and have fun and just relax and not worry about their condition,” she said.

Casey hopes everyone has a fun time.

• For more information about the Sunshine Foundation of Canada or to make a donation go to www.sunshine.ca.

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