Deer Lake -
The one thing Carrie Corbett has told herself she absolutely has to do while in Disney World is take a ride on Splash Mountain.
The 11-year old Elwood student never thought she would get to go to the Florida theme park, but this Easter she got a new swimsuit as a present from the Easter bunny, along with the news that she would get her ride on Splash Mountain.
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers with Air Canada, five children from throughout western Newfoundland and the Baie Verte Peninsula are visiting Disney's Magic Kingdom.
The trip is part of the Dreams Take Flight program, a non-profit program that is part of a collection of charitable groups associated with Air Canada. This year, Dreams Take Flight is celebrating 15 years of operation in the region and 20 years of operation nationally.
The program offers flights to Disney theme parks for children who would otherwise not have the opportunity for vacation travel. They may come from economically disadvantaged homes or simply be recommended for the trip through schools or community service groups.
The five children chosen from western Newfoundland for this year's trip include Sarah Shea, Shannon Brown, Carrie Corbett, Ashton Oram and Adam Combdon.
The kids met at the Deer Lake Regional Airport on Tuesday, greeted by balloons and cake and lootbags, before being flown to Halifax.
"I can't believe that I'm here," said Corbett at the airport on Tuesday afternoon.
Now in Halifax, the children will meet today with 135 other chosen children from the Atlantic provinces, said Christine Simon, Dreams Take Flight co-ordinator for Atlantic Canada.
The group of 140 children will also meet Air Canada volunteers who will help them on board a private plane, complete with their own - and also volunteer - flight crew.
In addition to the trip itself, the children will be given items that include new sneakers, a T-shirt, a fanny pack and an autograph book for their favourite Disney characters to sign, said Simon. The children will go on to have, "the day of their life," she said, with a flight to Orlando and a whirlwind all-inclusive, magical day at Disney.
All flights, travel to and from the airport, overnight stays in Halifax and all costs associated with meals and theme park entry will be covered by fundraising donations made to Dreams Take Flight, collected throughout the year by volunteers with Air Canada.
Darciene Romaine, an employee with Air Canada Jazz in Deer Lake and a volunteer for Dreams Take Flight, greeted the young travellers from this region when they arrived for their flight to Halifax on Tuesday.
"Just the fact that we can have kids from our area go is phenomenal," said Romaine, adding that the volunteer time and the fundraising have also been personally rewarding to herself and other volunteers.
Simon, meanwhile, said that while children from Newfoundland and Labrador have previously made the trip, a group of children from Goose Bay was selected in 2008, "this is completely new for the west coast of Newfoundland."
This year, Simon estimated a little over 20 of the 140 children selected will be from Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole. She said the number of children making the journey from this province through the program has been increasing and she is hoping to include children from the Gander area in next year's flight.
In the last 15 years, Simon said the program has taken about 1,300 children from the Atlantic provinces to Disney World. The Atlantic Canada program is one of eight divisions of Dreams Take Flight operating nationwide.