Charity makes Lapland dreams a reality for sick children

Little Urte Rupsiene from Randalstown, Co Antrim, described a visit to Lapland this week as ‘‘one of the best days’’ of her life.

By Helen McGurk
Thursday, 19th December 2019, 7:00 am
Little Urte Rupsiene and mum Girda visit Lapland
Little Urte Rupsiene and mum Girda visit Lapland

The eight-year-old was part of a group of more than 100 children from across Ulster with life-limiting conditions and illnesses who got to experience the joy of the winter wonderland thanks to local charity, The NI Children to Lapland Trust.

The children, their carers and a medical team took a TUI Airways flight to Roveniemi in Northern Finland where the magic of Christmas was unveiled, with reindeer rides, husky dog rides, sledging, a visit to the elves workshop, as well as Mrs Claus’ gingerbread bakery factory and many other activities.

The pinnacle moment for all children was a private meet and greet with Santa Claus.

Urte said: “I never thought I would ever get to meet Santa in his home. Everyone was so lovely and we got to do so much.’’

Speaking about the day, Urte’s mother Girda Rupsiene said The NI Children to Lapland Trust had given her family a day that they ‘‘will never ever forget, a memory that we’ll cherish forever.”

She added: “Travelling is such a stressful experience at the best of times, but when you are travelling with a child with medical needs it becomes much more of a challenge to the point that it can be off-putting, but this trip takes away all those stresses and allows the family to really soak up the entire day worry free.’’

Father of eight-year-old Ava Gallagher, James McKernan, from Portadown, said: “The NI Children to Lapland Trust has given us a trip that we would ordinarily never experience.

‘‘It has made Lapland and all its magic accessible to those who can’t travel and for that we are very grateful.”

Daughter Ava added: “Everything about the day was fun. My favourite part was the reindeer rides and it made me feel like I was a real-life elf!”

Colin Barkley, chair of NI Children to Lapland Trust described the 11th trip since the charity was established in 2008 as ‘‘a privilege’’.

“This trip is something I always look forward to. Seeing the children get excited over everything Lapland has to offer is wonderful. We are absolutely thrilled to have TUI on board this year.

‘‘The amazing team offered their support to provide this special flight to Lapland and we’re so grateful for all the effort they’ve invested to make this trip possible.’’