The resumption of the initiative by the charity, which was founded by the late Jack Rodgers MBE from Larne, will see healthcare professionals nominate young people across the province with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions to visit the magical location of Rovaniemi.
The trip which has been going for 12 years – with the exception of two years during the Covid emergency – usually costs approximately £750 per child, but this year the sum has increased substantially to accommodate the cost of living crisis and surging fuel costs.
It means NICLT will have to ramp up its fundraising efforts, including bringing back its ‘Walk to Scotland’ fundraising drive on Sunday, November 20. This will see participants board the Stena Superfast Ship at Belfast, bound for Scotland. During that journey, they will walk a mapped-out track helping raise funds as they put in the steps.
Oliver Dickey (14), who lives with a type of cerebral palsy that impacts his mobility, will undertake the Walk to Scotland for a third time. Back in 2019, the Coleraine schoolboy and his good friend Ethan Pollock undertook the challenge and raised over £10,000.
Oliver said: “I’m very glad the Lapland trip is back this year because it is such a brilliant experience and I will never forget my time there. I know to get all 100 children to Lapland, and their families and all the equipment, costs a lot of money and even more this year. This is why I want to do the Walk to Scotland again, to make sure dreams can come true for many other children.”
Gerry Kelly, NICLT’s president, said: “We are delighted to be able to resume our trip to Lapland this Christmas and create memories with some of the most deserving children here and their families.
“It has been difficult not being able to offer that experience to children during the pandemic and while we did deliver gifts to their homes over that period, nothing quite beats the magic these children feel when they board that flight to Lapland.”
Colin Barkley, chairman of NICLT, said: “On one day a year we fill an aeroplane with children with particular needs, their families, healthcare professionals and a host of equipment.
“It’s no easy feat but one that delivers so much joy and creates life-long memories for all involved, and we are so happy to bring it back after a two-year break.”
At any given stage in Northern Ireland, there are at least 1,500 children suffering from a terminal or life-limiting illness.
Dr Mark Rollins, a charity trustee and a senior consultant paediatrician, explained: “The health teams are all aware of the significant burden on carers and families who look after their child’s condition and needs on a daily basis. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals give up their own time to volunteer to ensure that these children can experience a magical time in a safe environment whilst not forgetting the boost the trip gives to their self-confidence and mental well-being.”
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More than 1,000 children and their families have enjoyed the trip to Lapland. For more information, visit https://nichildrentolapland.com/walk-to-scotland/