NI children, parents, caregivers, and medical professionals boarded a life-changing flight by NI Children to Lapland Trust for an unforgettable day The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust successfully completed its much-anticipated annual Lapland trip on December 19, 2023. This extraordinary journey brought joy, excitement, and holiday magic to 85 children facing terminal illnesses and life-limiting conditions.
Generous collaborations with TUI, Belfast International Airport, Swissport, Santa Park, and Wild Nordic in Rovaniemi, Finland, made the heartwarming adventure possible, creating unforgettable memories for the young participants.
The cherished tradition, initiated in 2008, transported the children from Belfast to Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus on the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland. The day was filled with enchanting activities, including reindeer and husky dog rides, mini skidoo adventures, a snowmobile safari, magic sleigh rides, and a special meeting with Santa Claus himself.
Among the families sharing this magical experience were:
Sharon Ogle and son Isaac (8) from East Belfast: “Lapland is magical. There is no other place like it. Isaac and I had so much fun and made so many new memories. Huskies, reindeer, elves, snow mobiles, sledges, sleighs, warm berry juice, graduating elf school, baking, arts and crafts, train, snow – and I mean snow right up to our knees when walking!, party on the plane and we met Santa! We will be eternally grateful to the NI Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust for this opportunity.”
Angela McClements and son Alfie (9) from Ballymoney: “I cannot thank you and your team enough for a fantastic trip, one of many memories and dreams. Alfie had a ball, he will talk about these memories for years. In his words ‘it was the best day ever’. We feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to join you on this trip. I can’t put into words how thankful I am for the memories.”
Chris Power and son Daniel (10) from Dunmurry: “A huge thank you to all involved with the trip, it was unbelievable. Daniel had the best time, as did I seeing his excitement. A lot of work and time obviously went into the trip. It was flawless and we couldn't have asked for more, basically surprise after surprise from start to finish, thank you so much.”
Claire McAreavey and son Sam (5) from Gilford: “Thank you so much for a wonderful day. It was absolutely magical and something that Sam and I will treasure forever. I can’t tell you how much of a lift it has given us all at the end of a difficult year.”
Reflecting on the significance of the trip, Colin Barkley, Chair of NI Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust, said, "There is no greater Christmas gift than providing joy to young children living with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and helping alleviate the usual challenges that come with travelling for their families.
“We're thrilled to have crafted the enchantment of our Lapland trip for another year. Witnessing the sheer joy on their faces is a timeless delight. Heartfelt thanks to our supporters – from TUI, Belfast International Airport and Swissport and their dedicated staff, to The Choir Studio from Newry who filled the air with festive music; to Santa and the Elves at Santa Park, and Wild Nordic in Rovaniemi. This adventure is a testament to the love of many individuals and organisations, and we're dedicated to keeping this magical journey alive for years to come.”
Dr Mark Rollins, a charity Trustee and a Senior Consultant Paediatrician, added: “NI Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust is a unique charity which allows health and community care workers, based in all the paediatric departments and hospitals in Northern Ireland, to nominate the sick children they feel most deserve such an amazing treat.
"The health teams are all aware of the significant burden on carers and families who look after their child’s condition and needs daily. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals give up their own time to volunteer to ensure that these children can experience a magical time in a safe environment whilst not forgetting the boost the trip gives to their self-confidence and mental well-being.
“Of all the charities I have ever been involved with, NICLT is definitely extra special.”
Charlotte Brenner, Marketing Manager at TUI Ireland, one of the supporters enabling the annual trip, said, "We are thrilled to lend our support to the charity and bring the enchantment of Lapland to the children this year. Amid the joyous holiday celebrations for many families, it's crucial to remember that some are grappling with illness or life-limiting conditions. Being able to provide a touch of magic is a true honour for us, recognising the importance of creating special moments for those facing unique challenges during the festive season."
Jean Foster, General Manager, Swissport, Belfast, was part of the exceptional team supporting young travellers, their families and health staff on the ground at the airport. She said, "We were delighted to see everyone from the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust back this year and we were at hand to ensure a streamlined departure and arrival.”
Deborah Harris, PR & Marketing Manager at Belfast International Airport added: ““The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust flight is always very special and this year was no exception. We were delighted to welcome all of the children, their families and the fantastic staff to Belfast International Airport and we are sure they had an experience to remember. It is very important for us to be part of this magical event - it really brings home the meaning of Christmas.”
The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust has been a source of joy for more than 1,500 children who have had the opportunity to embark on this magical journey throughout its history.
To view photos and memories from the special trip to Lapland check out the charity’s Facebook page @childrentolaplandtrust
For further information on the charity: https://nichildrentolapland.com/