These sick children enjoying a dream trip to Florida and swimming with dolphins will warm your heart

Many sick and seriously-ill children from across the UK have left their families behind and conquered their fears on a once-in-a-lifetime sunshine holiday in the US.

They spent 10 days in Florida on the annual Dreamflight trip, having been nominated by doctors and nurses in hospitals around the country.

The 192 youngsters - some of whom require round-the-clock attention - visited the likes of SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Disney World during an all-adventure tour of the Sunshine State.

For many, this trip was their first time away from home, with volunteer health care professionals acting as chaperones.

SeaWorld of Dreamflight child Ellis Hayes

As a final treat, children were given the opportunity to swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando.

The charity is celebrating its 30th year, having been supported by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, for its maiden flight while a host of celebrities including golfer Ian Poulter, singer Sir Cliff Richard, and television personality Myleene Klass have given up their time to help out.

Charity founder Pat Pearce said: "I can't believe it's been 30 years - it was supposed to be a one-off trip but people said, 'There are more children out there who need this break, you've got to do it again.'

"The 16th of November, 1987, Princess Diana came to wave us off. That was very, very special for the children, and for me if I'm honest.

(Steve Parsons/PA)
(Steve Parsons/PA)

"When I started it I thought it was just a holiday of a lifetime, I didn't realise how far reaching it (Dreamflight) is.

"The children get so much from each other, not from us adults. They see possibly somebody worse off than themselves and they think, 'Yes, I can do it'.

"For example, our former Dreamflight children now have 37 Paralympic medals. Another came back as a doctor. It's not just the holiday of a lifetime, it does change lives."

Paralympic champion Liz Johnson was among those volunteers supporting the children, having travelled to Florida as a Dreamflight child 19 years earlier.

The 30-year-old swimmer, who won gold at the Beijing games in 2008 and more recently appeared on Celebrity Masterchef, said: "There are so many reasons why I feel I need to give back to this charity.

Liz Johnson
(Steve Parsons/PA)

"Some children you see the direct impact within the ten days of the trip but for others it's a more subtle impact that goes throughout their lifetimes.

"That was true for me - para swimming and parasport.

"Everything links back to that - the opportunities I'm getting and the person I've become are because of my experiences as a para athlete and it was Dreamflight that gave me the confidence to pursue that career."

The overall trip costs around £800,000 and covers everything from a chartered British Airways jet to three meals a day.

For more information on the charity and Discovery Cove, visit

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