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Ill children jet off on dream trip

22 October 2013 11:25

Sir Cliff Richard meets Tegan Badger-Osmond (left) from Swansea and Connie Taylor-Bates from Worcester before boarding the Dreamflight plane

Sir Cliff Richard meets Tegan Badger-Osmond (left) from Swansea and Connie Taylor-Bates from Worcester before boarding the Dreamflight plane

Nearly 200 seriously ill or disabled children jetted off for a holiday of a lifetime - and were serenaded by Sir Cliff Richard as they took off. The impromptu rendition of Sir Cliff's hit song Summer Holiday delighted the excited group as they set off from Heathrow for a dream trip to the United States.

The 192 youngsters, from all over the UK, winged their way to the sunny climes of Florida courtesy of British Airways-backed charity Dreamflight. Swimming with dolphins and trips to Disney World are all part of the fun for the children. Dreamflight, which has been running the annual trip for 27 years, was praised by Sir Cliff, who had flown in from Miami to wave goodbye to the group.

He said: "Dreamflight is such a wonderful idea. The fact that these very sick children who have a dream of going to Disney, and suddenly, there's this plane. They have the most fantastic time. It's probably one of the most exciting things that's happened to them in their lives."

A team of volunteers - 15 doctors, 50 nurses and 12 or 13 physios - are accompanying the children during their action-packed week, which costs £750,000 and is funded through donations. This covers chartering the Boeing 747, medication and medical equipment, pre-existing medical travel insurance, police security, communications equipment and the dolphins excursion.

Sir Cliff, whose involvement with the charity stretches back 20 years, belted out an adapted version of his hit through the plane's PA system, changing the lyrics to Dreamflight Holiday and adding: "No more sickness for a week or two." Fire engines soaked the aircraft in a water canon salute as it approached the runway, as airport staff waved off the children.

The youngsters could not hide their excitement, with Ryan Shannon, from Belfast, saying: "I can't wait to go. All of us can't wait. It'll be rubbish going back to school after it."

The 14-year-old said he is looking forward to "everything really", especially Universal Studios.

"We all slept well last night but everyone woke up excited. It's great," he said.

Nine-year-olds Tegan Badger-Osmond, from Swansea, and Connie Taylor-Bates, from Worcester, were most excited about swimming with dolphins.