Visiting Disney World is not only a fairy-tale experience for kids.
Adults, like Constable Daniela Quinn, are also eager to soak in the magical treat.
She was among 11 Toronto Police officers who volunteered for the Sunshine Foundation Dreamlift that transports a planeload of kids living with severe disabilities or life-threatening illnesses to a fun destination for a day.
On April 19, the officers were matched up with the young people at the happiest place on earth – Disney World.
“I have heard so much about Disney and I have never been there before,” Quinn, said at a reception at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto, on April 18, where they met the children and their parents for the first time.
“It’s the first time I will be going there and I am just as excited as the youth.”
The 32 Division officer, who joined the Service 16 years ago, was matched up with 16-year-old Ashley Arruda.
“I am excited, but a bit nervous,” said the teenager.
Constable Shawn Geris has been to Disney World several times with his kids.
“I see the excitement on their faces,” the Transit Patrol officer pointed out.
“Just imagine what that experience will be like for these youth, many of whom will be there for the first time.”
Geris’ buddy for the day was 11-year-old Tiffany Henry, whose first visit to Disney World was seven years ago.
“I can’t wait to get there to see The Beast (the male protagonist of Disney’s 1991 film ‘Beauty and the Beast’) who is my favourite character,” she said.
“I like him because he’s big, strong, fierce and cool.”
Constable Debbie Bland, of the Public Safety Unit, was partnered with 10-year-old Yemina Goldberg.
“I love to volunteer and I love to give back to children,” said Bland
Superintendent Neil Corrigan was the highest-ranking officer to make the trip.
“This is an amazing opportunity to give back to the young people,” the 33 Division unit commander noted.
“There is no better way of doing that than spending a day with them in Florida.”
Corrigan’s buddy for the day was 12-year-old Mark Sewaya, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle degenerating disease that affects one in 3,600 boys.
“My son goes to school every day, so I don’t think he will miss me that much for the day,” said his mother, Miriam Kutesa.
“He’s really looking forward to the trip.”
The 80 youth who made the trip have various diseases and ailments ranging from cancer, spina bifida and cystic fibrosis to muscular dystrophy and other life-threatening illnesses that require specialised care.
“We look at who needs to be matched with medical volunteers because of their health needs,” said Sunshine Foundation of Canada chief executive officer Nancy Sutherland.
“Those with lower health needs are then matched with a police officer. The police have been so much fun for the kids over the years.”
Inspector Riyaz Hussein, of 31 Division, was the TPS co-ordinator for the trip.
“The response from the officers was overwhelming,” Hussein, who was part of the TPS delegation that accompanied young people to Disney World in 2013, pointed out.
“I had over 200 requests from our people who wanted to donate their time to this effort.”
Their flight left Toronto just after 6 a.m., and was scheduled to return a little after midnight on April 20.
“As exhausting and long as the day may be, it’s well worth it for the officers given what it means to the youth,” he added.
After losing his son to muscular dystrophy, a provincial police officer created the Sunshine Foundation of Canada in 1987 to brighten the lives of other children and families by fulfilling their most cherished dreams.