The Northern Lights Children’s Charities annual trip to Lapland for children with life limiting illnesses took off to Kittila in Northern Finland, north of the Arctic circle, early Friday morning 16th December. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral nominated the 20 very excited children, ranged in age from 6-10 and were accompanied by 10 volunteer helpers which included 4 specialist nurses. Reports before the trip warned us that the temperatures were going to be very cold, the latest one we received was of -35 degrees, but in fact we only encountered -3 degrees which is perfect with all the cold weather clothing provided on the trip.
Parents dropped the children off at the Holiday Inn Express at the airport on Thursday evening and after an early night the children were up at just after 3am for our flight to Kittila. With all 30 people checked into Manchester airport and were guided though security as quickly as possible ready for our 6.45am flight.
We took off on time and arrived in Kittila just after 10am in the morning, but with the 2-hour time difference is was now just after noon.
A short bus ride to the hotel followed and the hunt for Santa began. Only 0 degrees when we arrived at the hotel, positively warm! We checked into our rooms and then went for a quick lunch before trying on all our cold weather clothing. We went to meet Hal & Rudi and after an early dinner it was soon time for bed after an exhausting day of travel for 20 very tired youngsters (and adults!) and the temperature had only dropped to -3 degrees.
Saw all 20 children on husky and reindeer rides, skidoo rides, tobogganing, an Artic Circle ceremony, a rainbow, beautiful red sky, swimming, outdoor hot tub along with lying on the ice doing snow angels in swimwear oh yes and finally an attempt at the mannequin challenge. We have 20 very happy children.
Brenda Light one of the nurses said “I feel so privileged to be part of it all” and a lovely quote from one of the children coming back from today’s activities “That was the best day ever” and there is still much more to come!
Saw us hunting for Santa again, after breakfast we all went tobogganing and then after lunch we went on a journey to a magical forest where it is said “if you are lucky you may find Santa’s Post Office”. There must have been lots of fingers crossed as we not only found the post office, but Santa was at home!
We spent the last full day in Lapland visiting the Levi Husky Park where we got up close, very close with the reindeers and huskies and went on a 2 km sleigh ride across a frozen lake.
In the afternoon, 10 Pin Bowling was our activity and then back to the rooms to get ready for the Gala Party. A great time was had by all and even Santa turned up again to give each of the children a present.
We spent the final morning in Lapland having a quick breakfast and then packing our cases ready for our journey home. After goodbyes to all the lovely helpers at the Hotel and from Monarch, it was just a short bus ride back to the airport. Our flight home soon followed with 20 very tired children, all with lots of memories, all very excited for Christmas at home with their families and I am sure with lots of stories to re-tell again and again. A great group of children, who were well behaved, have made many new friends, have memories for life of a fun filled time in Lapland when they met the real Father Christmas and played in the snow for 5 days. It was a time to forget some of their trips to hospital and just be children again!
Huge thanks go to all our volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the whole trip. The staff at the Holiday Inn Express at Manchester Airport, all the helpers at Monarch and those working in the background to ensure everything runs so smoothly. The staff at Manchester Airport who make our check-in and trip through security as painless as possible and Andy Willis, Transport Operations Manager for Manchester Airport Busses who organised the bus from the hotel so early on Friday morning. Add in the kind people who organise our insurance, the donation of clothing every year from Nyquist Group and everyone who raises money throughout the year to allow us to book these holidays and we have a huge debt of thanks to so many.
Special thanks go to our nurses, words cannot adequately describe how much respect and admiration we have for those who travel with the charity, both from this year and previous years. They give up their own time to care for and be with the children in our party. They work tirelessly to make sure their patients are always comfortable and happy. We watch and marvel at their dedication and care, they all sleep with one eye open and one ear pressed to the wall, we can’t thank them enough!
And so to 2017…
As we enter our 30th Anniversary year, we cannot believe where the time has gone, so many people have helped so many children visit Lapland and meet Father Christmas, an unbelievably special trip each year with memories that these amazing children will hold on to forever. THANK YOU EVERYONE and especially the committee of Northern Lights for all your time and effort in ensuring we can continue to organise these trips well into the future.