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Charity makes dreams come true for special needs kids in Disneyland

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver

With her eyes locked on Minnie Mouse, Charlie Murchison pauses just a second to reach for her autograph book before getting in line to meet the Disney family’s most famous girlfriend.

“Mickey scares me,” she giggles, explaining why she wasn’t interested in meeting the Magic Kingdom’s most ubiquitous mascot.

Nearly 120 B.C. children with a variety of special needs — be they physical, mental or, in some cases, financial — joined the Grade 6 girl Tuesday on a one-day excursion to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

The Dreams Take Flight charity partnered with a host of organizations, including 24 hours, to foot the bill for the $60,000 trip.

Murchison, who insists she lives by Peter Pan’s ethos of believing anything is possible, was accompanied by four schoolmates from West Heights Elementary in Mission, B.C., while school principal Catherine Erickson helped chaperone the kids.

“The students from my school are in a very needy community, (and) come from families that don’t necessarily have a lot of money and wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to bring the children here on their own,” Erickson said, adding one boy’s father was brought to tears when she told him his son would travel to Disneyland.

“This is a trip of a lifetime for them.”

West Heights student Jacob Nielsen was the first person in his family to travel by plane when he left Vancouver just before 7 a.m.

“This is awesome!” he hollered when the Air Canada airplane — staffed by volunteers — lifted off the ground.

The Grade 5 student was adamant the jet ride was the highlight of the trip — that is until he rocketed through the Big Thunder roller coaster just after eating lunch with Goofy.

“You get more butterflies (than on the plane),” he said following his coaster ride, “but it was so much funner.”

For Murchison, the high point came when she hopped on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

“When I watched (the Pirates film series) in the theatre, I thought that was the closest I would ever actually get (to experiencing) it,” she said, adding she was “very happy” to be wrong about that assumption.

Even Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts carved out time to volunteer with Dreams Take Flight, spending the day at Disneyland with children assigned to the “Mulan group.”

Like Murchison, Watts said the Pirates experience offered her favourite moments.

“(The highlight) was just the constant smile on their faces — that’s what makes it for me.”


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