The mother of a local five-year-old girl who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, is appealing to her local community to back a charity that is enabling her family to go on the holiday of their dreams.
Jessica Henderson’s condition has resulted in her being registered blind and she has regular seizures.
The little girl's - from Bangor west in Co Down - condition means that her daily life is extremely difficult and she is dependent on others for all her physical needs.
Her 26-year-old mother, Donna, who applied for little Jessica to be accepted for a place on Caudwell Children’s annual Destination Dreams holiday to Disney World, in Florida has told of her delight that the Clifton Special School pupil was offered a place on the December, 2016 trip.
Now she wants to encourage others to donate to the charity in order to secure places for other children from Northern Ireland, on next year’s holiday.
Because of Jessica’s condition Donna has never been able to consider taking a holiday overseas.
“It’s difficult to contemplate going on holiday as it’s often impossible to know what Jessica wants," she said. "She can become unsettled and start to cry, which can be really upsetting.
“Being too far away from her doctors feels a bit of a risk, and even if I could afford it I would be uncomfortable taking Jessica overseas on my own.
“However, Destination Dreams is completely different as they take a team of paediatric doctors and nurses. The medical team is available 24/7, which gives families like mine real confidence.
“As a result of this care it costs the charity, on average, £10,000 to take each of the 25 families on this once-in-a-lifetime holiday.”
The charity also provides a volunteer to help each family, and Donna believes that this will be a great help to her on the trip.
She said: “I believe that the volunteers do the simple things like carry bags, push wheelchairs and buggies, and keep siblings entertained.
“It’s this kind of assistance that will allow me and Jessica’s eight-year-old brother, Josh, to move freely around the parks, enjoying ourselves as a family.”
Donna says that the family will benefit hugely from the holiday. “It’s a constant battle to ensure Jessica’s well-being and it’s been none stop since she was born. So to be able to spend some quality time together, with both children, being ‘normal’ for a few days will be magical," she added.
“With the medical team being on hand there shouldn’t be anything for us to worry about.”
Caudwell Children’s Chief Executive, Trudi Beswick, is urging the community to get behind Donna’s appeal. As she explained: “For many families caring for children with terminal or life-threatening conditions the thought of leaving the protected environment of their home town, and their regular medical support, fills them with dread.
“By providing 24 hour professional medical provision and a team of volunteers, for the duration of the trip, Destination Dreams gives families the chance to create happy holiday memories, often for the first time!
“Unfortunately, the level of assistance that the families need doesn’t come cheap. That’s why it’s vital that children like Jessica, get the fundraising support that they need.”
To date over 200 families have enjoyed the getaway, but Caudwell Children say that they need to raise more funds to ensure that others, like Jessica, continue to enjoy the experience.
“Jessica loves cartoons and other children being around her, and the time she’ll spend together with Josh will show him just how much she appreciates what he does for her,” said Donna. “And whilst I know that we will make long lasting memories, I just hope that the public support the charity so that other children, from Northern Ireland, get the same opportunity.”
You can support Caudwell Children through their Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/destinationdreams2016
Caudwell Children is a national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
The charity created Destination Dreams in 2007, to give 25 children, with life threatening illnesses, the opportunity to experience a ‘Dream’ holiday to Disney World.