Northern Ireland news

Adventure of a lifetime for north's ill children

Kyle Cooper (14) kisses a dolphin in Florida during the annual Dreamflight trip for sick and seriously ill children Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire
John Monaghan

SICK and seriously ill children from across the north had a mid-term break with a difference when they swam with dolphins in Florida during a once-in-a-lifetime charity holiday.

The 16 children were part of a group of 192 from the UK who were selected for the annual Dreamflight trip, which has been running since 1987.

Each year hundreds of seriously ill and disadvantaged children are taken to Florida, visiting the likes of SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens during an all-adventure tour of the Sunshine State.

Children were also given the opportunity to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando.

14-year-old Kyle Cooper, from Antrim, said that the whole week had "flown by like a bird."

Kyle said: "Through this I've felt so thankful and humbled. It's so much fun, I've been really happy to be here. I have made loads of friends and feel much more confident about being around people."

He added: "I used to stay at home in case people judged me but I think I've come a long way and this trip has helped."

For many, the trip represented the first time away from home, with volunteer doctors, nurses and medical professionals helping act as chaperones during the holiday.

Dr Cauvery Pal, the charity's deputy medical director, said: "Obviously a medical emergency at 30,000ft on a Boeing 747 is a different environment to a hospital theatre, but there is always an unusually high concentration of medical professionals on board, so the children are always in good hands."

Charity founder Pat Pearce said: "The inspiration to carry on is in the kids' faces. It is seeing them swim with dolphins that makes me want to give even more children that chance."

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