What Carol Eliasson and Mira Hummerston have been able to accomplish in the past two decades is no small feat -- they have helped kids' dreams take flight. Each year they volunteer to take a special group of children from Manitoba on the trip of a lifetime to the most magical place on Earth -- Disneyland.
Dreams Take Flight is a national non-profit organization composed of volunteers who work or have worked for Air Canada. Every year, the Winnipeg chapter volunteers organize a trip for physically and/or intellectually disabled children, as well as children who may not financially be able to otherwise take such a trip, to Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., for the day.
"It's such an exciting experience," says Eliasson. "A lot of these children have never even been on a plane before. We usually start the flight with a big pillow fight, and that generally helps to break the ice."
The Winnipeg chapter of Dreams Take Flight celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and Eliasson, a flight attendant, has volunteered since the very beginning. Hummerston, who's been retired for 10 years, has volunteered with Dreams Take Flight for 19 years.
"I remember the first time I volunteered, I said, 'I'm not going to cry,' " recalls Hummerston, who always volunteers as a group leader for the trip. "I lasted all day, and then we got back on the plane, and the kids were watching a movie, and as I sat there, I started to reminisce about the day we just had at Disneyland. And just a flood of tears began.
"It just touches me so deeply. The children, many who don't have a lot, appreciate this one day so very much. It makes me feel so good, just seeing that sparkle in their eyes."
The children who participate each year are selected from a variety of hospitals and social agencies across the province, including the Boys and Girls Club and CancerCare Manitoba. Air Canada provides the plane for the trip, while volunteers do the rest -- including fundraising for the entrance fees to the park, food, fuel for the plane, transportation to and from the airport, etc.
The flight crew, including pilots and attendants, as well as group leaders, also volunteer their time for the special day.
Eliasson and Hummerston have been busy this year volunteering on the organizing committee for the 2nd Annual Dream Walk fundraiser, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Assiniboine Park. The walk helps raise money for the costs of the trip, which usually takes place in the spring. Eliasson busily volunteers between her flights getting sponsors for the walk, and Hummerston proudly states she is in charge of the food. Eliasson's daughter and Hummerston's husband always lend a hand as well.
They both admit organizing the trip is hard work. The trip itself begins at 3 a.m., with buses picking up children for the airport, followed by the flight and then a whirlwind day of rides, food and fun at Disneyland before getting back on the plane for the long journey home.
Eliasson admits she loves to wear the Mickey Mouse ears -- all the volunteers, including the flight crew, dress up as Disney characters -- which provides a lot of amusement for the children.
Eliasson's and Hummerston's passion for creating these happy memories for children, even if just for one day, is what has brought this unlikely pair together.
"It has definitely brought us close. Friendships have been formed over the years," says Eliasson, laughing as she looks over at Hummerston. "We don't always agree with one another, but we depend on each other. Working together, we can succeed and make sure these children have the time of their lives."
For those interested in registering for this year's Dream Walk, go to www.runningroom.com. For those interested in volunteering or donating to the Dream Walk, call 204-941-2726.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at firstname.lastname@example.org.