In 1987 there was no Internet… But that didn’t stop full time British Airways, Airhostess, Patricia Pearce from using her typewriter, and unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit, to raise money for a life-changing holiday. Taking deserving children from across the UK, hiring an airplane, finding specialist doctors and medical staff, recruiting volunteers, booking hotels and activities…. Not to mention finding and preparing the 280 (yes 280) children to take the trip… to Orlando, USA!
Since then, Dreamflight has taken off every year, ‘Changing Lives’ of over 5000 deserving children so far…
Tomorrow (October 17th 2015) the 29th flight takes off from Heathrow airport.
In this first episode, discover how Patricia Pierce (MBE), has built a charity based around one life-changing event, without any previous experience.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- How one lady started as a flight attendant and became a charity hero.
- The work that goes into the most amazing event we’ve ever heard about.
- How you can help Dreamflight continue to deliver life-changing experiences for deserving children
00:43 Opening words with Toby and James.
02:15 Interview with Patricia, Sally and Toby.
02:45 Patricia explains what Dreamflight do.
04:02 Sally talks about how they choose children for Dreamflight and what the charity does.
05:34 How Dreamflight stays connected with the children.
06:36 How technology helps to make their events easier.
08:05 Discover how Dreamflight manages their volunteers.
09:00 Find out how Dreamflight takes care of children.
10:40 Discover more about the children who benefit from Dreamflight.
12:40 Find out the way Dreamflight takes care of the children.
13:55 Find out how much money it takes to keep Dreamflight running.
15:58 Discover how Dreamflight organised their funding back in 1987.
17:08 Find out how many children went on their first trip.
17:42 The difference between Dreamflight’s trip then and now.
18:07 How Dreamflight prepares for their yearly trip.
19:08 Find out how Dreamflight trips help children.
20:39 The amazing things that happen in Dreamflight’s charity.
23:11 Find out when the 30th anniversary of the first Dreamflight trip is.
24:33 Find out about the amazing team at Dreamflight.
26:47 How Dreamflight serves as a bridge for new friendships.
29:01 Find out how people can help Dreamflight’s charity.
30:38 Discover how Dreamflight raises awareness.
31:06 Find out about Dreamflight’s fundraisers in the USA.
32:12 How event organisers can help Dreamflight’s charity.
34:09 Find out the different activities on the Dreamflight holiday.
35:29 How Patricia found Sally, and how they work together.
36:13 Find out why Patricia felt the need to do more.
37:40 Find out how they keep in touch with the parents during a trip.
39:16 Find out what’s next for Dreamflight.
41:03 Go to Dreamflight’s website.
41:20 Closing chat with Toby and James.
…To be continued…
Sally: We take 192 children who are very deserving over to Orlando for 10 days without their parents and it’s just an amazing experience. They get to experience all the theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Sea World, Universal Studios. They have parties every night and it’s just an amazing time for them. They get to be together and share the experience with other children who are in a similar situation to them.
Speaker 2: Toby and James are involved in amazing events all over the world. You’re listening to plannerspod.com, where top event professionals share real world experiences and cutting-edge ideas. Sponsored by Metropolis-live.com
Toby: Hello and welcome again to plannerpod, I’m Toby Goodman and this is James Eager. How are you doing, James?
James: Very, very well, Toby. Are you good?
Toby: Good mate, thanks. Yup. Today we talk to two amazing ladies from the charity Dreamflight. Dreamflight organized a holiday of a lifetime for deserving children once a year, and are about to embark on their 29th flight. Yeah, coming up to 30 years. Dreamflight need to raise in excess of £1 million a year and in order to do that the supporters of the charity and the charity themselves put on huge amount of events per year, different fundraising exercises and loads of fun stuff that happens in the lead up to this two week holiday, which obviously is a huge event in itself.
We were lucky enough to be able to do this recording in person at the Dreamflight office and have the pleasure of meeting the founder, Patricia Pearce, who’s an MBE, and the director Sally Rampling. We met them in person so without further ado, here’s my chat with Patricia and Sally and James, I’ll see you at the end for a chat.
James: I’ll see you then, mate.
Toby: Cheers, mate.
Speaker 2: Plannerspod is sponsored by Metropolis-live.com
Toby: Patricia Pearce and Sally Rampling. There you go, got it right, thanks for coming on. Your charity is Dreamflight and Patricia, you set it up so I suppose that you’re the best person to explain exactly what you do. There’s a big event, once a year event, that you do that needs to happen and it’s pretty involved. Tell us.
Patricia: It started 29 years ago and I was a cabin crew member for British Airways. We used to do another charity event up for an hour … Take an aircraft up for an hour with underprivileged children on it with Father Christmas on board. It was when we came back from the third one that I decided that maybe we should be going to Disney World in Florida. I have to openly admit it was after a few glasses of wine and everything seemed like a good idea at the time. The next day when people start phoning you up and say, “You are going to do this aren’t you?” That you think my God, I’ve now got to do it. The idea was to do one and, as they say, the rest is history, this is number 29.
Toby: Yeah. That’s going to happen in the next few weeks.
Patricia: Three weeks today we’ll be in Magic Kingdom.
Sally: Three weeks today we will, yes.
Toby: You both going?
Sally: [crosstalk 00:03:45] Absolutely, yeah.
Toby: Do you go every year?
Patricia: I do, yeah.
Toby: You’ve literally been 28 times.
Patricia: I did actually miss one out when I wasn’t well.
Toby: Right, okay.
Patricia: Yes. Yes, I’ve been on every one.
Toby: Sally, since joining have you been on every one as well?
Sally: I have, yes. I joined a couple of years ago. What we do, effectively Patricia started it all those years ago, but it’s the same formula we do every year now. What we do is we ask doctors and nurses across the NHS in January of each year to nominate children with an illness or disability, aged eight to 14, for Dreamflight. We work with them, we select the children each year, and in October every year we take 192 children who are very deserving over to Orlando for 10 days without their parents. It’s just an amazing experience. They get to experience all the theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Sea World, Universal Studios. They have parties every night, it’s just an amazing time for them. They get to be together and share the experience with other children who are in a similar situation to them who maybe have an illness or a disability of their own. On the last day they get to swim with the dolphin which is always … It’s just amazing to watch them.
Sally: They come back and they’ve had this amazing 10 days of a shared experience with other children and they often keep in touch and say that it’s changed their lives. It’s just a brilliant thing. It’s been going for … This October, in three weeks, will be the 29th trip that we’ve done. I think it’s … Is it over 5,000 children?
Patricia: It was 5,200 I think last time I counted.
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Sally: There you go.
Toby: It’s amazing. You’re still in touch with them? You’re telling me as well – quite a few of those.
Patricia: I think what’s happened over the years, technology has gotten so good. We didn’t have websites, emails or anything like that when it started. Now with the website and Facebook, children from earlier years are getting back in touch with us now.
Patricia: It’s really lovely.
Toby: Yeah. When did that … I suppose the most interesting question is how has that affected the way Dreamflight operates having the internet? You’re talking about a charity that started before the internet. One conversation around a glass of wine turns into a phone call turns into having to do stuff, which I guess involves writing letters and sealing envelopes with stamps on and all that stuff and meeting people. Now it’s you can get loads more done, can’t you, with internet? How has that directly affected the prep of your event? Coming from someone’s who not been … I remember life without the internet but I don’t remember working life without the internet.
Patricia: I didn’t even have a computer when we started. I had an electric typewriter.
Patricia: I typed everything.
Patricia: I asked my brother who worked for IBM if he could get me a free computer, which they offered to donate. I didn’t realize that you didn’t just switch it on and use it like an electric typewriter.
Patricia: They said, “We can give you the hardware but not the software.”
I said, “That’s fine.” Not knowing what the difference was. I’ve learned a lot.
Sally: The internet has made it easier and having all the technology we’ve got now. For example we, as I said, ask doctors and nurses across the NHS to nominate children for the trip. That’s all done electronically now and we communicate with them that way. With a trip of this nature we obviously take all of these children without their parents. We take medical and non-medical escorts so, again, we fill the plane with doctors, nurses, office workers, policemen from all walks of life who all share an interest in helping these children.
Toby: What we were just talking about was the fact that you’re not … It’s not just the kids that we’re dealing with getting, it’s the support and the volunteers. They need to be medically trained and also just non-medical volunteers as well. It’s kids we’re dealing with there’s all sorts of checks that you need to do, the CRBs [crosstalk 00:08:04]
Sally: It’s a huge undertaking. Dreamflight is very much a volunteer-led charity and it always has been since Patricia started it all those years ago. In order to make it happen we require the support of just so many thousands of volunteers around the country.
Sally: Ranging from nominators, these are the people in the hospitals, in the hospices, units around the country that would nominate children. Dreamflight has a relationship with those people so that they understand what trip we’re talking about and can nominate the children that would really benefit from 10 days away without their parents. It is a very unique charity and a very unique trip. The nominators need to understand that it’s the children … We take children between the ages of eight and 14 with an illness or disability. We say we can cope with anything as long as we know. In reality we need the children to be able to cope with 10 days away without their parents.
Toby: Yeah. The emotional part, not just the illness part.
Sally: Yeah, absolutely. On an emotional level it is a very trick thing for an eight-year-old to be away from their mom and dad for 10 days, even though they’re going to this amazing place and they won’t think about back home, they’re so busy while we’re out there. Also in terms of the illness or the disability we need to understand what kind of children will cope for 10 days in heat, in Orlando, and be able to go on rides. Pretty much we’ve taken children ranging from they may have lost a limb in an accident, they may have been recovering from leukemia or a type of cancer, all sorts of different things. We need to work with the nominators every year.
Toby: Speaking specifically about the nominators then, imagining maybe someone for the NHS is listening to this, and who hasn’t had a Dreamflight, but has got a good idea, they might know someone or they’d just like to keep an eye out, what are your boundaries? You say you can cope with anything, obviously we’ve got the age range, eight to 14.
Sally: It is.
Toby: The illnesses … You’ve just mentioned someone without a limb, someone recovering from cancer, it’s pretty major stuff. I’d be interested to know, obviously without revealing any specific details, what perhaps the most challenging situation has been.
Sally: Wow. We do take … We do have some boundaries obviously within the children that we can support. We do say overall that it’s children who have had a really tough time, who’ve had an illness or disability, or are going through a tough time and would really benefit from a trip like this. It can range from … We’ve had all sorts. Patricia is probably the best person to talk about it. For example, we’ve had children who … We’ve got children on this year’s trip who are blind or have … As I said they’ve perhaps lost a limb quite recently in an accident and are learning to walk again. Children who have had cancer or illnesses [crosstalk 00:11:30]
Patricia: I don’t have to inject myself three or four times a day, I just feel they deserve a treat in life. Even a diabetic is still life threatening.
Toby: Yeah, sure. Is that from when you started it, Patricia, was that … Have you been able to accommodate more or did you hit the ground running and go?
Patricia: I think we hit the ground running actually. I think I was mental that first year. I don’t have a medical background and … Yeah, I didn’t realize. I don’t have children myself and I didn’t realize … I thought at night you put kids to bed, they slept and they got up in the morning.
Toby: Yeah, if only.
Patricia: I didn’t realize a lot of these children need turning during the night. I didn’t have a night shift for the first year.
Toby: Wow. Yeah, that wouldn’t even occur to me because obviously I don’t have a night shift at home.
Sally: [crosstalk 00:12:26] It’s developed over the years. The way we work now … Again, it’s learning. Every year we learn what we need, how can we best support these kids and make it safest but happiest trip they’ve ever had. The way we work, we split … Dreamflight splits the UK into 12 regional groups and we take 16 children per group. We give them a name of a character that the children would identify with, we’ve got, for example, East Scotland is the Donald Duck group, Northern Ireland are the Scooby Doos, London and Southeast are the Mickey Mouse group. Within those groups we take 16 children.
Sally: To support those 16 children for these 10 days in Orlando, we obviously need a lot of volunteers. Each group has a group leader, and they are usually somebody who’s been on Dreamflight for quite a number of years in different roles, sometimes they’re medical, sometimes not, but they really understand how the trip works, they understand the children that we take, and they know Orlando, they know the theme parks, they know their way around. Also within each group we take one doctor, three nurses, a physiotherapist, and three non-medical volunteers. They can be office workers, policemen, all sorts of people who have supported Dreamflight over the year maybe in fundraising or in other ways.
Toby: Okay. You’ve obviously got the whole fundraising thing that you do during … There are events, it’s not just this one event, you have to put on events all through the year to make the big one that costs money happen.
Sally: Absolutely. It takes about £1 million a year to keep Dreamflight running, which sounds like a huge sum of money, but when you think that we take almost 200 children a year plus another 200 volunteers, including our team of night nurses, we have a camera crew that film the whole thing, we have BA crew that come with us from British Airways, and obviously support us out in the parks. When you think that we have 400 people out there for 10 days, that’s all the accommodation, that’s all the food, that’s entry to the theme parks, that’s gifts for the children. We don’t ask the children to pay anything, to bring any money at all, we give them the time of their lives and we fund the whole thing. Even though we’ve got great relationships that we’ve built up for years with British Airways, who provide the plane, with a hotel accommodation out there, with the theme parks, it’s still a huge undertaking for a trip like this. All the medical equipment, all those kinds of things. We need to raise about £1 million a year to keep going.
We do that through events, yeah. Mad people jump off buildings for us and do bake sales and do fun runs and marathons and that kind of thing. We don’t receive any lottery or government money, it’s all through volunteers. [crosstalk 00:15:10]
Toby: That’s amazing. Patricia, when you decided to start the one-hour flight and turn it into a two week halfway across the world thing, one of the things you must have realized very quickly was that you needed to raise some money.
Patricia: Yes. It wasn’t 10 days the first one, it was only five. We left on the Monday, we were back on Friday.
Patricia: Quick wham bam, been and done it.
Toby: Still quite a lot longer than one hour up in an airplane with Santa.
Patricia: Yeah. I don’t think I slept much more than four hours a night for a year that first year trying to organize it. I came home and thought ‘few’ – that’s done.
Toby: How did you … I’m just really interested how you organize the funding of something almost 30 years ago.
Patricia: Obviously it wasn’t £1 million [crosstalk 00:16:01] It was really a question of going to friends and saying … Getting people out in rotary clubs and also asking the staff of British Airways of where I worked, “Will you help?” Even around the world, even in Sydney, the ground staff that knew me because I was flying in and out then were raising money. That’s how we got … Mind you, I have to admit, just beforehand I didn’t think I’d made enough and I was going to go to the chief exec and say, “Will you give me a loan? I’ll pay it back when I get it back.” We did actually make it in the end.
Toby: Amazingly your job as a cabin crew meant that you were a pretty global businesswoman that you could hook up with all these people in all the airports and let them know what you were doing.
Patricia: I think people bought into the idea and loved it. They wanted to see it happen. Of course you see I was only going to do one, wasn’t I?
Patricia: Then I came and thought … Went on holiday and came back and there was more children out there [crosstalk 00:17:04]
Toby: How many children were on the first trip?
Toby: You’re joking.
Patricia: No, I’m telling you I was mental. Each escort had four children, now they only have two. I have learned a lot over the years.
Toby: Were there … I’m assuming just because I’ve dealt with teaching and children in other stuff that I do that there have been much more regulations now than there were then.
Patricia: Yes, a lot more.
Toby: In terms of qualifying who gets to come on the trip and all that stuff. That’s more admin for you now isn’t it?
Patricia: It’s funny because I think the paperwork changes because if we didn’t have to do the checks and things like that [crosstalk 00:17:48] handling them, but we did have to apply for American visas.
Patricia: We still had, it’s just changed.
Toby: Just different.
Patricia: Different, that’s the word yes.
Toby: In terms of doing things quickly you can get more done in a day now than you could before.
Sally: Yeah, definitely. I think, again, we’ve learned every trip, don’t we? We sit down afterwards and say, “How can we improve this? How can we make it a better trip for the children?” Every single year. For example we make sure that this is the happiest trips that the kids ever go on, but it’s also the safest. We take very seriously when we’re selecting adults to accompany the children. We do do the CRB checks. We do training every year, we go through things like manual handling of the children, aircraft safety, fire safety, all those different things that you need to think of. There’s a lot that goes on in the background just to make this 10 days happen and make it safe and happy environment for these kids.
Sally: Of course when they get there the kids are no different, we just hit the theme parks running. We go swimming in the morning, we go around the theme parks all day on all these rides, swimming in the evening, parties in the evening. It’s just a really jam packed schedule. I don’t know how we manage it actually, it’s exhausting.
Patricia: I’ve always said I call them my little rosebuds and they all blossom really, full blown by the time they come back. They made their friendships and they learn so much from one another.
Toby: Yeah. I suppose a lot of children with those needs in those situations feel quite isolated. To get to know people that are in similar situations is …
Patricia: That’s right. I think they sometimes realize there’s probably somebody better or worse off than themselves. Last year, two boys talking and I wasn’t ear wigging as such, one had gotten a prosthetic leg and he’d taken it off and whopped that on the table. I mean this is Dreamflight! The other little boy said to him, “I don’t know why I was chosen to come on Dreamflight, I’ve only got cancer.”
Toby: Wow. Okay.
Patricia: That’s why you’re on my love, you deserve a treat.
Toby: Yeah. What are the kinds of things that you’ve seen that are really amazing journeys? You talked with me, didn’t you, and I can’t remember but I can remember you can specifically talking, Sally, about what happens before and after. They do blossom, as you said, and the things that happen and they find themselves if that doesn’t sound too cheesy. What situations have you seen where not only have they had, a more contextual awareness of their illness but also just got some strength from somewhere?
Sally: We’ve had an amazing number of children, and we didn’t realize until recently, who were on the trip as children and since obviously grown up, who’ve gone on to have great careers in whatever field. For example, we know of at least seven former Dreamflight children who won gold medals in the Paralympic Games. One example of that is Liz Johnson who came on the trip as a child herself, had started to swim by then anyway, but then went on to … She’s won a gold, silver and a bronze for team GB in the Paralympics. She cites Dreamflight as the point at which she … It was a turning point for her. She thought, “Actually I can do something, I can do this.” She went on … Terrible, tough time when she was younger but has gone on to achieve amazing things and came back to Dreamflight as one of our patrons, comes on the trip each year as an inspiration to all these other children that we take. We’ve got lots of examples.
Patricia: Got one turning golf professional.
Sally: We have, yes.
Patricia: Just about to turn professional as a golfer.
Toby: Great. Olympic medalist, professional golfers, and you said earlier before we started recording a doctor.
Patricia: One came back as a doctor, yes.
Patricia: Went and did training and came back. She wanted to put something back in for what she got from the trip.
Sally: We’ve seen lots of the children who have gone on to have really fulfilling careers in lots of different fields, not just in sports but lots of different fields. What we’re finding now is former children, obviously adults now, coming back to Dreamflight to volunteer because they want to help other children in the way that they were helped. Last year we had a couple of cameramen on the trip who were filming for us, as I’ve said we’ve had a doctor.
Patricia: A magician.
Sally: Yeah, we’ve got one former child who’s now actually works for the Dorchester but is a magician as well. [crosstalk 00:22:43] Yeah and comes and entertains the kids. A lot of them cite that Dreamflight was the point at which they thought actually yeah, I’m not the worst off here, I can do things, I can go on to do what I want to do.
Toby: Brilliant. Adam at the Dorchester, is that one of the reasons why your big 30th bash is at the Dorchester?
Sally: It’s not the reason but …
Sally: It does help, yeah.
Patricia: He will be there on the night, won’t he?
Sally: He will. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the first Dreamflight trip and we want to use that occasion to do lots of things including have a ball at the Dorchester to try to raise this £1 million that we need to raise, which is quite a feat.
Toby: Yeah, and before we talk about that, it occurs to me that exactly what you were doing when you started, going around as cabin crew, getting people to raise money for you, is how we initially found out about you. A BA cabin crew member Debbie was the person that phoned me up and said, “We’re looking for music for our big 30th bash.” You’ve been able to do that, you’ve been able to pass on your system, if you like, of getting people to … I can’t find the words. [crosstalk 00:24:06]
Patricia: Just one example is here in London, the fire brigade when we go out do an archway of water over the aircraft.
Patricia: As soon as they found out in Orlando, the Americans … We arrive and there’s another archway of water.
Toby: I love it.
Patricia: They all want to do their little bit to make it special, don’t they?
Sally: Yeah, they do.
Patricia: Even small things like that just amazes me. We want to mention our American helpers that we have.
Sally: Yeah, we’ve got an amazing team when we get over there. Obviously it takes a lot to actually get on the aircraft at this end with all these kids and go over there. When we arrive we’ve got a whole team of US volunteers that stay with us for the week that help these children.
Toby: Is there a central operations team in …
Sally: Yeah, we’ve got an American charity, Dreamflight USA, that supports Dreamflight in the UK by raising money but also sourcing … You can’t imagine the medical equipment we need when we arrive at the other end or the radios, things like that, for the group leaders to keep in communication with each other. All sorts of different things we require out there.
We’ve also been really looking … Patricia was just saying about the support we get from fire engines and crews out there. We get a police escort from the airport which is incredibly special. When the Dreamflight aircraft lands, it’s usually when the sun is setting in an evening, we all come off the aircraft, which usually takes up to two hours because of the number of wheelchairs and the disabilities that the children have. We get on our coaches and the Orlando Police Department give us an escort all the way to the hotel. They close the roads for us to make sure that we arrive safely with all our equipment together. The only other person, or people, that the Orlando Police Department will do that for is the President of the United States. These kids have the most amazing [inaudible 00:26:03] it’s just fantastic. The lights going on these police cars and motorbikes as we go down [crosstalk 00:26:10]
Toby: Quite an experience.
Sally: We’ve got a lot of volunteers and support [crosstalk 00:26:13]
Patricia: One’s about to arrive in the office this morning from America.
Patricia: There’s so much that’s gone on that I never dreamt of at the beginning. It’s become almost a club, a big family, for the adults too.
Toby: Of course, yeah.
Patricia: There’s so many people. If the Americans come over here for holidays and go back there, they all keep in touch don’t they. It’s a big family.
Toby: Do you have situations where the children make friends on the trip and then their families will see each other afterwards as well?
Sally: Definitely, yeah. Behind you, you probably see, we get letters into the office all the time to say thank you or to keep in touch with what the children and the families are doing. A lot of them do because they’re in area … As I said we split the UK into 12 regional groups. The children very much stay in their groupings on the trip so they get to know each other really well. There are 16 children and they often keep in touch as they get older. They’re still really good friends.
Toby: That’s brilliant.
Sally: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Toby: We should, I suppose, say … Normally a lot of these interviews are just done on Skype. That’s okay, you don’t have to … We’re here in the office and obviously we’ve not been before, you’ve got a team of four people outside. Does that include you, Sally?
Sally: Yes, it does.
Toby: Four including you. Everything’s run from this office.
Patricia: This is head office.
Toby: This is head office. Yeah.
Sally: We administrate the trip, that’s what we do. We have to obviously raise the money in order to make it happen, but a lot of it is preparing the children and all the medical checks and police checks and all that kind of thing. I remember when I started a couple of years ago, somebody said to me, “You just do one trip a year. What do you do the rest of the year?”
Sally: Actually it takes …
Toby: I just said that, didn’t I? I said, “I wonder if you could do two.” You both went, “No.”
Patricia: Obviously not.
Toby: Mind you I’ve never been offered a coffee and telly there in the same sentence before so that’s very good.
Sally: Welcome to Dreamflight. No, it takes … The administration all year round to make this trip happen, as I said, and a safe trip for the children, is quite amazing. Yeah, there’s four of us. We’re very lucky we’ve got six volunteer trustees, each with their own expertise, and teams of thousands of volunteers out there. As I said, the nominators, the doctors, the nurses, the people that come along with us, the fundraisers. It’s quite a big family.
Toby: You always need fundraisers, that’s a given. Any particular type that you’re looking for? Do people take it upon themselves to have a night? I want to raise money for Dreamflight and I’m going to jump off a building. What is it? What are the things that people do and what are you looking for people to do and how can people raise money and help you?
Patricia: I think some people want to put on an event, we’ve got teams that arrange the ball and we’ve got regional balls now around the country now starting up. Other people want to do something for themselves, they want to a skydive or they want to run a marathon, something like that, or golf days or something like that. Golf clubs are quite good if the captain chooses us as the charity for the year that’s quite good. I think it’s … My whole concept has been, like I said at the beginning, I want adults to have fun and raise money and the end result is the children get the holiday so it’s a full circle.
Sally: It definitely does still work like that. What we’re finding as well is a lot of the families of the children we’ve taken, whether it’s the moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, want to give back. We don’t ask that at all, we raise this money and we take these children, and we don’t ask for a penny. We do find a lot of the families do want to do something, and they want to do something fun, so we’ve got a lot of families now doing fun runs, bake sales at school, whatever it is, which is just fantastic.
We’re also, for the first time this year, going to have the Dreamflight Day in November, 27th of November, to try and focus some of the fundraising. If anybody’s got an idea for … Whether it is a small bake sale at school or wear different clothes to the office day, or give up your coffee for a day to donate the money instead. Whatever it is, just something small, everybody can do something on that day if they like.
Toby: How, at the moment, are you getting your message out to people about hey, you can have a Dreamflight Day at school or your office or whatever? How do you do that?
Sally: We’ve got thousands of supporters around the UK so we tend to communicate with them. We’ve got a newsletter, we’ve got our website, dreamflight.org, we’ve got a very active Facebook page, we’ve got 10.5 thousand followers on Facebook. Again, the families spread the word as well in schools and things like that.
Toby: You got Dreamflight USA, which is part of the club if you like. Do you get fundraisers in the USA as well?
Sally: We do, yeah, we have a couple of events out there. Our biggest, by far, is one of our patrons, we’re very lucky to have Ian Poulter, the golfer, as a patron. Ian every year does two events for us, one in the states and one over here. He does a charity golf day at Lake Nona over in Orlando for us every March, which is by far the biggest fundraising event we have out in Orlando. He also does one here in Woburn which is his home club, usually in June, July. He’s an amazing patron and that’s a huge fundraising opportunity for us.
Sally: Over in the states as well we have people who donate money, we have a poker run, we have charity challenge, lots of little events as well which really help.
Toby: I’m just trying to think of the kind of people that listen to the Plannerspod podcast, a lot of them are events-type people, probably most of them not medically qualified, but they like a good event and they know how to run one. I guess they might be able to help as well.
Sally: That would be great. Over the last few years we’ve been putting on more events around the country. Our volunteer teams take it on themselves to do balls or golf events, different venues. We have a ball now in Northern Ireland, one in Edinburgh, sometimes one in Newcastle, these are developing all the time. We’re always looking for people who can help with those events, whether it’s providing music, hosting, emcee, finding new ways that we can raise money through auctions and silent auctions and all those kind of things. We’re always looking for different people to get involved.
The way that Dreamflight works, or has worked for the last 30 years, is by spreading the word, it’s word of mouth. People get involved that way. We’d love to bring new people in and help us raise money that way.
Toby: That’s hopefully the idea isn’t it. What’s the most bizarre innovative piece of fundraising you’ve seen in the 29 years, Patricia, that you’ve done?
Patricia: You’ve got me thinking now. There’s been so many events over the years.
Toby: At the same time you’ve …
Patricia: I would hate to pick one out and upset anybody who’s listening I hadn’t mentioned theirs.
Toby: Yeah, but I suppose most surprising. You get golf days is brilliant as a mechanism to raise money or whatever and fancy dress thing or something. Has anyone done anything that’s … You’ve gone, “Wow” [crosstalk 00:33:39]
Patricia: It’s things that I wouldn’t do. Like I was saying, I went to Portsmouth recently while they were up setting down the Spinnaker Tower.
Patricia: Actually they took me up to the door where they walk up and I got within four steps and I thought, “No way.” I admire those people because a lot of them were scared stiff but they still did it. I admire them for the courage. [inaudible 00:34:03] skydive some people isn’t it. [crosstalk 00:34:06]
Toby: Jumping out of a plane.
Sally: We’re so lucky, we have a lot of … I suppose the biggest fundraising events for us are the skydives, the golf days particularly and the balls. We’ve had … I’m just thinking of the most unusual things that [crosstalk 00:34:23]
Patricia: They climbed Mount Fuji didn’t they, they climbed Sydney Harbor Bridge, the crews on the trip.
Sally: Yeah. The most unusual I’ve seen that I wouldn’t have thought of in the last couple of years, we had a great British pasty bakeoff in a pub, which raised money and apparently was the most enjoyable event that a lot of people have ever been to tasting Cornish pasties for June flight. We had … One of our volunteers is an amazing baker and baked a Christmas cake in the style of “Frozen,” the Disney film “Frozen,” and auctioned that off for June flights as well. “Frozen,” the film, was a big hit with some of the Dreamflight children last year. They spent the whole 10 days singing, “Let It Go.”
Toby: Yeah, you wish they had.
Sally: Really do. We auctioned a frozen Christmas cake for Dreamflight as well. There’s some crazy ideas. Sometimes they raise small amounts, sometimes they raise huge amounts, but we couldn’t do it without all of these fundraisers so it’s pretty amazing.
Toby: Yeah. Patricia, how did you find Sally?
Patricia: We went to an agency to get her. We all agreed she was the best. I have to say she’s my right hand man and she’s taken so much worry off of me that I can … I feel as if I’m swanning about now really. I go to all the events more which, particularly this time of year, I wouldn’t have done because I’d be in the office working. It’s freeing me up to go out a lot more. To be honest I’m getting a lot of fun out of it now.
Toby: Good. You look pretty chill I guess compared to how chilled you were on the first year of doing it.
Sally: Don’t know you did it.
Patricia: Totally frazzled.
Toby: Yeah. It must have felt … You must have felt some need to do it again yourself as well.
Patricia: I think so, yes. When you see what it meant to the children it just makes you want to do more. I went through my own cancer 10 years ago and all I wanted to do was get better. It was those kids that got me through it, I wanted to get back and take more children which fortunately I’ve been able to do. I had a lot of time and fun last year playing with the kids, which before I didn’t have the time because I’d be worrying the buses out there are ready, is this done, is that done. Now [crosstalk 00:36:41] I go and enjoy.
Sally: You’ve got to spend time … That’s the pleasure of it. It’s amazing. With Dreamflight as a volunteer or paid member of staff, it’s an amazing charity, it really is. Seeing the kids on this trip … Patricia says they do open up and they’re very nervous to start with. You imagine eight and nine-year-olds leaving their parents for 10 days. When they first get dropped off at the hotel that we use in London for the flights, it’s a pretty strange experience for everybody isn’t it. As soon as the doors close on the aircraft it goes crazy. We do face painting and nail painting and silly string and all sorts on the aircraft. The kids, by the time we get to Orlando, they’re best friends, best mates. They’ve forgotten … It sounds awful, they’ve forgotten about mom and dad back at home and they’re just …
Patricia: The parents worry a lot more than the kids do.
Toby: Do you get a lot of messages saying, “Is everything okay?” from the parents?
Sally: We get messages from the parents but they usually pre-agree with the children’s escort how they’re going to keep in touch.
Sally: We try and limit … It sounds awful but we try and limit the contact between the children and the parents because we find it almost makes homesickness worse. Actually it’s the parents that worry much more than the kids. I’ve seen these children on holiday, they’re not worried at all. We keep in touch, as I said, we’ve got a Facebook page, very active, and we make sure we post live updates out there with photos of the children enjoying themselves. The parents know they’re safe, they’re happy, they’re well.
Patricia: They can’t ring. It’s difficult because of the time change. We don’t get back to the hotel until 7:00 at night, which is midnight back here [crosstalk 00:38:21] back at 7:00. It’s difficult.
Toby: I guess another really nice thing is you give the parents a little bit of a break as well.
Sally: [crosstalk 00:38:27] Some of these parents are giving 24-hour care to these children. We do find … We say Dreamflight changes lives and it’s not just the lives of the children that we take but quite often we get letters from the parents saying, “Actually I needed those 10 days and I was able to focus on the siblings, my other children,” or “We had just a little break and it renewed my energy and we missed them so much and it’s enabled us to carry on.” I think it’s an important thing that we do is take the children without the parents.
Patricia: It’s interesting some of the parents have made friends now haven’t they.
Toby: That’s great. It’s a network of people that have been through and are going through similar things. You don’t feel as alone do you, especially with a child that’s not really well.
Sally: I think that’s the next step for Dreamflight. Every year we get this aircraft, we fill it with these deserving children, and that will always be the focus, the trip will always be the focus for Dreamflight. I think now we’re starting to think about how we can help these children when we get back from the trip. We’ve developed a relationship, we know them, their families, we know their illnesses, their disabilities. It might be that we can support them afterwards as they grow, as they develop [crosstalk 00:39:44]
Toby: You’re looking for that at the moment as well. You’re looking for ways of continuing support post-trip.
Sally: Absolutely, yeah.
Toby: That’s really good. I suppose if anyone’s got any ideas about that they can let you know. Okay. I should reveal that James is here as well, he’s been very quiet. [crosstalk 00:40:05] Have I missed anything?
James: No. There have been bunches of questions I’ve wanted to ask but I wanted to let you take the helm during this.
Toby: Quite right to. Okay. Have you got anything … Have I missed anything? Is there anything that you …
Patricia: I don’t think so. I think you should come and see the flight off and see it for yourself.
Toby: All right.
James: I would love to.
Patricia: Would you really?
Toby: Not you, she was talking to me.
Patricia: [crosstalk 00:40:32]
Sally: It’s pretty special.
Toby: It’s Heathrow?
Sally: It is Heathrow, we’ve got a hangar at Heathrow. We don’t go through the airport.
Toby: That’s just amazing isn’t it.
Patricia: [crosstalk 00:40:44] Private side [crosstalk 00:40:46] the steps.
Toby: Another presidential trick, that’s amazing, what a great story. Lastly then, what’s your website called?
Toby: Dreamflight.org. Facebook page? We’ll put it up on the website.
Sally: Yeah, put it up on the website.
Toby: Okay, cool. I think that’s it.
Sally: Great. [crosstalk 00:41:13]
Speaker 2: You’re listening to Plannerspod.com
Toby: James, there is once more another interview, you were there this time, but that was the interview with Patricia and Sally. What did you take from it?
James: Wow, where do I start in this one? I actually want to do something slightly different this time. Rather than me talk about it, I’d like to turn it around and ask you what it was like for you to take that interview.
Toby: Once you calmed down and got all the microphones into place it was very much like conducting a standard interview in some ways, but in other ways totally different because it was in person. I think we’ve only done one or two others in person before. Yeah, it was a really special interview, wasn’t it? Really amazing to learn more about Dreamflight charity itself, unbelievable what they do, can’t quite still comprehend exactly how they manage to do it. Yeah, absolutely blown away by what they do and a real honor to have been given time by these super important people that work really hard to sit down with us around the table and just talk about it.
James: Yeah, it was a pretty nuts experience. I remember feeling slightly emotional at points and I was just sitting there observing, listening, checking that the recording equipment was working fine. I was just knocked out. I guess you were thinking on your feet as well about what the next question might be, but I was just taking in the scale. I think that’s what really blew me away, the scale of what you do.
We started the interview and it was what we expected and then just one thing happened and then another. It was just like can this get any more ridiculous? By the way, the fire engines do a ring of fire or a hoop of fire, or whatever they called it, over the airplanes. By the way also, when we get to Orlando, they do exactly the same thing and then shut the roads. Okay. It just got more and more ridiculous. I think that’s … Obviously ridiculous in an amazingly positive way.
That’s why I came up with the idea of why don’t we actually get them to talk through so we can actually understand the process of actually how their week runs. That’s going to lead into the second podcast that we’re doing with Dreamflight. Do look out for the second part, which will be following up on this one, where they actually talk through day to day of how the event actually runs from the Hilton T5 taking over all of that, taking over an aircraft hangar, and then every day, day by day, up in the air, or when they get to Orlando rather, and then coming home. Yeah, just a crazy interview that I didn’t bargain on being quite as deep I think is probably the word.
Toby: Yeah. There’s a lot going on there and there’s a lot of reasons why it was quite an emotional thing to talk about because it’s kids who, in a lot of cases, aren’t very well at all, being given the experience to discover who they are without their parents. I think that’s obviously incredibly liberating for them. You talk about how ridiculous, positive way, all these things that happen like the fire engines doing the water and the roads and the parties and all that other good stuff that the kids experience, which is amazing.
What really knocked me out was the asides that happened. Patricia is an incredibly humble person, I didn’t even realize she was an MBE. For all those people who don’t know what an MBE is, it’s basically part of the honor system in the UK, and it essentially means that the award … It’s an award that is given by the Queen for a significant achievement or outstanding service to the community. An MBE is also awarded for local hands on service which stands out as an example to other people. Clearly Patricia is exactly the kind of person who deserves this kind of stuff. She’s taken over 5,000 children away on holiday. Yeah, she didn’t even mention it and Sally didn’t mention it either. It’s just something that happened. Yeah, quite impressed.
She’s written a book as well called “My Dreamflights,” which again she didn’t mention, I didn’t know about until post-interview. Obviously she talks about her incredible experience working for British Airways as a hostess and then following on talking about obviously Dreamflight the charity.
The things that were shocking to me were when we actually left, when we stopped recording, and she was saying, “Yeah, I don’t have any kids myself so foolishly I thought it would be really easy.” I’m thinking I’ve got one and I find it almost impossible to organize a holiday for one, let alone 280 with some disabilities all the carers and stuff. Turns out she was doing this before computers, she had a typewriter initially, and she was flying all around the world. Rather than going out on the town, or whatever you do when you’re an air hostess and young, free and single, she was holing herself up in a hotel room and inputting medical records manually into systems on her own on the other side of the world in a weird time zone just to make this thing happen.
She told us, again I can’t remember she said this on or off the recording, in fact the first big Dreamflight, it was a shorter trip but it was 280 kids on that first one. That’s absolutely nuts that she even contemplated that. Going from the initial I’ve got an idea to going for it. She said, “I had no night shift, and again this is not something I’d even have thought of that you needed a night shift but of course you do. You’ve got kids that have special needs of various things they need addressing during the night.” To do that with a team that’s nowhere near big enough and all that stuff absolutely blew our mind.
I think after we finished that recording we went off and we had lunch and we were both a bit shellshocked and a bit speechless because things kept occurring to us. Bloody hell, did she really do that on her own without a computer? Now you’re looking around saying okay, there’s an office of four staff, and Patricia has now stepped away from full-time running, but clearly she’s really involved and she’s so … Her energy is just unbelievable. She’s so wide grin all the time, really interested in stuff, really interested in our recording process. Such a lovely … Both of them, Sally as well, just a lovely energy to be around. Yeah, absolutely that’s what I took from it. The humility and unbelievable hard work.
James: I think for me I also didn’t bargain that when we started Plannerspod that we’d get experiences like this. I thought we’d be talking about the nuts and bolts of how events work and that’s what we do and that’s what you guys have been listening to for 17 or 18 episodes now. To actually go in there and first-hand have that experience of people doing such incredible good was absolutely crazy.
We’re looking forward to, of course, playing at the Dreamflight ball next year. We’re taking one of our bands, one of the live music bands that we take into events, and doing their bash at the Dorchester next I believe it’s July, isn’t it, Toby? We are going to be talking to them again, aren’t we? We’re going to have a bit of a debrief on the podcast and you can find out the net results, we’ll talk a bit more in depth about actually how that event came together, what it took to put an event together. I believe it’s at the Dorchester Hotel, one of the big ones in central London. It’s going to be a pretty mega event there, it’s going to be raising some serious money. We’re going to talk about that and you can actually hear about how one of their events goes together. I think 192 children to Orlando for 10 days is a pretty massive event in itself, isn’t it?
Toby: Yeah, obviously loads of different events that they run leading up to this massive one. Yeah, this podcast came about simply because they had agreed to hire us for this big party in the summer. We wanted to … The more that I found out about what they did, I thought actually this is something that we can do a podcast on because hopefully the whole point about podcasting, in a way, is that it just raises awareness. It was something that we were in a fortunate enough position to be able to offer them.
Obviously if there’s anything that you would like to offer to Dreamflight in terms of … It doesn’t have to be financial donation, it could be time or an idea, then I know they’re really open to helping and I know that obviously what they’ve said as well, which I’m really interested to find out more about, is the next stage. How they can help people post-holiday because they don’t feel … Having listened to what they had to say totally understand that they don’t feel that they would do more than one holiday a year, but there are things that they can do to help the kids post-holiday with stuff. If anyone’s got any ideas or feel that they can help Dreamflight, then go to dreamflight.org and get in touch with them. That would be great too.
James: Cool. Of course mention Plannerspod. Let’s start wrapping it up there. Do check out the next episode following shortly where they talk about how the event puts together. Do you want to do a bit of housekeeping, Toby?
Toby: Here’s the housekeeping, yeah. Part two we’re going to talk about the running order of the holiday in depth, which is really good. Good idea there, James. You can find them once again at dreamflight.org. Yeah, you will find us on Facebook.com/metropolislive, on Twitter/metropolislive1, that’s the number one. This podcast is directly available via iTunes and Stitcher, just search for Plannerspod. You can find accompanying notes and media and links from this podcast. Of course more about us on www.plannerspod.com.
Speaker 2: You’ve been listening to plannerspod.com, with Toby Goodman and James Eager, sponsored by metropolis-live.com.