Early in 1989, Kathy Dutchak, Bob Kent, Chris Dale and Kent Angus, a group of Air Canada Customer Service staff based at Terminal II in Toronto decided to dedicate some of their time and financial resources to the community. Their original plan was to charter a bus and take life-challenged children to Canada’s Wonderland for the day. They soon decided that plan wasn’t ambitious enough, so they elected to charter an aircraft bound for Walt Disney World. It was Christine Dale who dubbed the venture Dream Come True which is exactly what the trip was to be for some very special children.
The money for the first trip on April 18, 1990, was raised through bake sales, raffles, and deli lunches served to fellow employees for over a year and used to pay for park fees, fuel and spending money for the children. The group managed to get many other services donated by various generous agencies.
The inaugural trip, aboard a DC-9 aircraft, carried 68 children along with 32 adult escorts to Walt Disney World. The Children were chosen by ten charities throughout the Toronto area based on the criteria set out by the organizers. This year we will have 44 organizations from across Ontario, a total group numbering well over 350.
The trip was to be a one-time affair, but when those Dream Come True pioneers returned they knew it had to become an annual event. The planning for the next trip commenced the following day while events were still fresh in everybody’s minds.
The various volunteer groups across the country that organize the Dream Flights officially united in 1998 as one national organization under the banner “Dreams Take Flight”. Today, we are proud to soar from 8 stations across Canada. Vancouver Calgary and Edmonton fly to Disneyland in California while flights from Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Halifax and Toronto make there way to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. To date the Toronto Dreams Take Flight team has taken over 5,090 special children to the Magic Kingdom during its 21 year history. Together, with our sister stations across the country more than 20,000 will have experienced a dream of a lifetime by the end of the year.
The project is not an official Air Canada venture but is certainly strongly supported by the Corporation. All the planning, organizing and fund-raising is done on a volunteer basis. Pilots, flight attendants, employee and community volunteers all donate their time to operate and coordinate the flight. In Orlando the Toronto group is met by 6 highway coaches and many Air Canada and Disney volunteers from Florida that give needed support at the Magic Kingdom Park.
This year, May 12th, 2010 an Air Bus 330 (Mickey and Minnie Mouse)
was used for the second time in Dreams history. On board, 35 Dreams Take Flight volunteers, one Doctor, 13 media and celebrities, 40 agency and sponsor escorts and 44 organizations representing approximately 175 deserving children.
The aircraft is donated to Dreams Take Flight by Air Canada. The scheduling department began re-routing the aircraft several weeks prior to the trip in order to make it available for the big day. Landing fees, over-fly permits, ground handling, catering and aircraft cleaning are all donated in Toronto and by most in Orlando.
Organizers choose the children based on specific criteria given to the agencies, service clubs, and charities participating. The children must be between the ages of five and fourteen, come from disadvantaged situations, be challenged physically or mentally, afflicted with a life threatening illness and never been to Walt Disney World before. A child’s health is not a factor as long as they are fit for travel. Children who do not meet the parameters set out by Dreams Take Flight travel on a case-by-case basis.
The Monies raised for the trip are used for admission to the park, spending money, customs fees, insurance and amenities for the children. Any money left over is used for the following year’s flight. A majority of the funds raised throughout the year come from an annual gala, golf tournaments, auctions, BBQs, raffles, and many personal and corporate donations.
Our special guests this year included Walter Gretzky, Loonette the Clown, Argos wide receiver Obed Checouti, Blue Thunder; the Argos cheer squad, the Toronto Police Services Winged Wheels, Peel Regional Police Tactical Squad and Animal Friends from the Bowmanville Zoo. The fun started at 4:30 a.m. in the Air Canada Hanger #8 on Silver Dart Drive at the Toronto Airport.
The volunteers of Dreams Take Flight are committed to keeping the dreams alive and will strive to make it bigger every year for as many special children as possible.
”Making Dreams Take Flight for Special Children”