Dream-A-Way makes Zach’s dream of seeing Northern Lights come true

The Northern Lights over Lapland

We received this touching letter from the Thorp family following a Dream-A-Way grant towards their holiday in Lapland…

To everyone at Dream-A-Way and all your supporters,

What can we say, but the hugest thank you for the most amazing trip of a lifetime for our son Zach, it was just perfect!

Zach has Klippel-Feil Syndrome which means he has spinal fusions, skeletal abnormalities and poor muscle tone which can impact on his mobility & stamina causing fatigue. He also has significant Non-Verbal learning difficulties (akin to Asperger’s) which has an impact on his social, communication and sensory needs. He had wanted to see the Northern lights and experience ‘proper’ snow since be exposed to the ‘The Polar Express’ story & film. We had never been abroad with Zach due to lots of hospital admissions and a fear of being far away from support if we needed it. In addition, the practicalities of long journeys, busy airports inviting sensory overload, needing to explain his needs at each stage meant we had stayed within the comforts of UK holidays.

Zach, Mum & Dad ready for the husky sleigh ride!

The thought of a holiday as far as Finland surrounded by large groups of excited children had been difficult to reconcile with our needs. Additionally, cramming in what Zach wanted to see into a timescale we could afford would mean a packed schedule he just wouldn’t cope with. With the support of Dream-A-Way, these anxieties were put to rest – we did a familiarisation tour at Bristol airport the weekend before we travelled which took Zach through the whole process and knowing what was going to happen gave him so much more control. We had special assistance at the airport and the staff were amazing.

As we prepared to land at Kittila, the views of snow covered trees and mysterious dark days were completely awe inspiring and the excitement of playing games with the cabin crew and seeing elves at the airport really set the tone for the whole holiday.

A reindeer gets a feed from Zach

Christina, who sorted the whole package for us, ensured we had a room linked to the pool area so Zach’s muscles would stay warm when leaving the pools, the hotel knew of Zach’s needs and the activities were spread across the week allowing Zach time to rest in the room and have quieter days where we pottered and played in the snow without anywhere we had to be/go. We just enjoyed ‘being’ in such a beautiful spot as a family which really made a difference and allowed us to all relax and enjoy the moment.

We sledged every day, rode the gondola to see the beautiful views and capture precious memories, drank stunning hot chocolate at the top of the mountain and truly experienced relaxation and joy at this special time together as a family. The reps. & activities through Inghams were fantastic. Zach thoroughly enjoyed the reindeer safari and completely magical visit to the Santa’s Elf hideaway where it snowed heavily all day adding to the Christmas magic for him.

Zach meeting a local couple

The night time husky safari was the family favourite and we almost…I say almost…didn’t notice the -30 temperatures, as we sped through the snowy scene with frost covered trees and frozen lakes in a muffled silence bar the howling of the dogs when they stopped in eagerness to get going again. Click here for a short clip of Zach meeting a husky. We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights faintly as we snuggled on the sledge before heading back to the hut to cook sausages and roast marshmallows on the open fire whist our eyelashes defrosted!

The last highlight we must mention was staying up late, using the Northern Lights app, drinking hot chocolate in anticipation of seeing the magic down at the lake near the hotel. To our astonishment and delight they appeared for an hour or so, dancing their mysterious dance across the sky – Zach’s face was a picture of utter amazement, disbelief and delight! This is where his dream of visiting Lapland had begun, sparked, by the wonderful story and film of ‘The Polar Express’ where he first discovered the existence of the Northern lights!

The hotel at night

Here is a link to an album we created for you on Google photos – please click here or copy and paste this address into a search bar https://photos.app.goo.gl/DrxFLulrH0dPdaXp2 (opens in new tab).

Zach enjoyed doing the collection at Sandy park last year and we will continue to support you in any way we can in the future.

So, thank you Dream-A-Way, we wouldn’t have known where to start to ensure all these things were in place and could not have afforded a week in such a beautiful Country in the lead up to Christmas. This experience was one of a lifetime to be remembered forever and has given us the confidence to think about future holidays and experiences abroad.

Sarah, Paul and Zach Thorp.