The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust is relaunching its Lapland Trip and its ‘Walk to Scotland’ event to raise funds for the increased costs
The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland and Days to Remember Trust (NICLT) is gearing up to take 100 deserving children from Northern Ireland to Lapland this Christmas (21 December) for the first time since before the pandemic.
The resumption of the much-loved trip will see healthcare professionals here nominate 100 children across the province with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions to visit the magical location of Rovaniemi where Santa resides in a cavernous and truly magical winter wonderland, under the Arctic Circle.
The mystical spot, just 800 kilometres north of Helsinki, sees the children meet with Santa and his huskies, bake with Mrs Claus, take a magical train ride and even qualify from Elf school.
The trip is planned with painstaking detail to ensure the right medical staff and equipment onboard the three-hour flight guarantee the complete safety and comfort of all travellers.
The mission of the trip, which has been going for 12 years, with the exception of two years during the pandemic, is to give deserving children from across the Province an experience that they can cherish.
At any given stage in Northern Ireland, there are at least 1500 children suffering from a terminal or life-limiting illness and NICLT has an objective to alleviate the pressures these children and their families face by organising experiences like the Lapland visit.
This year the usual cost of the trip — approximately £750 per child — has increased substantially to accommodate the cost of living crisis and surging fuel costs.
It means NICLT will have to ramp up its fundraising efforts, which is why it is also bringing back its ‘Walk to Scotland’ fundraising drive on Sunday 20 November.
This campaign will see participants board the Stena Superfast Ship at Belfast, bound for Scotland. During that journey, they will walk a mapped-out track helping raise funds as they put in the steps.
Fourteen-year-old Oliver Dickey, who lives with a type of cerebral palsy that impacts his mobility, will undertake the Walk to Scotland for a third time (2017 & 2019).
Back in 2019, Oliver and his good friend Ethan Pollock undertook the challenge in a bid to raise £1000 for the charity but instead exceeded that figure raking in over £10,000.
This year the Coleraine schoolboy will undertake the challenge in a bid to bring in even more funds and help make Lapland dreams come true for other children as they did for him nine years ago when he undertook the trip.
Oliver Dickey said: “I’m very glad the Lapland trip is back this year because it is such a brilliant experience and I will never forget my time there. I know to get all 100 children to Lapland, and their families and all the equipment, costs a lot of money and even more this year. This is why I want to do the Walk to Scotland again, to make sure dreams can come true for many other children.”
NICLT’s President, Gerry Kelly, said: “We are delighted to be able to resume our trip to Lapland this Christmas and create memories with some of the most deserving children here and their families.
“It has been difficult not being able to offer that experience to children during the pandemic and while we did deliver gifts to their homes over that period, nothing quite beats the magic these children feel when they board that flight to Lapland.
“The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust relies solely on donations and fundraising drives which has seen us also reintroduce our Walk to Scotland trip onboard the Stena vessel. This event, which takes place on November 20, will help fund the cost of our trip to Rovaniemi, which has increased in line with rising costs.
“Our Walk to Scotland trip is open to everyone who would like to help us and we would urge you to get in touch and clock up those steps.”
Chairman of NICLT, Colin Barkley, added: “On one day a year we fill an aeroplane with children with particular needs, their families, healthcare professionals and a host of equipment. The aircraft is effectively a flying hospital while the authorities in Lapland are aware of the nature of our flight and an ambulance and the local hospital are on standby.
“It is this setup that is meticulously planned that allows many of these children to fly for the first time ever, due in part to prohibitive insurance and the nature of their condition.
“It’s no easy feat but one that delivers so much joy and creates life-long memories for all involved, and we are so happy to bring it back after a two-year break.
“Because we are self-funded, it’s important to us to thank our supporters, corporate sponsors and the individuals who go out of their way to help make this wonderful trip of a lifetime a reality.”
Dr Mark Rollins, a charity Trustee and a Senior Consultant Paediatrician, explains: “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 on a daily basis. 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.”
Over the years more than 1000 children and their families have enjoyed NICLT’s trip to Lapland, with memories lasting long beyond the day itself.
Parent, Grainne McQuade said: “To see the happiness on my son’s face was something I will never forget.”
Another parent added: “This trip was an extraordinary experience for our family, especially at a time of grief. Invaluable memories were made.”
Emma, 10, said: “It was the best day of my life.” And little Teddy, 8, added: “I loved it and didn’t want to go home. My dreams came true.”