Two years ago, a dedicated Doncaster mum started a fundraising mission to collect the money needed to take her ‘miracle’ son on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday.
Last month, Victoria Lee was finally able to take her son Jack Kirsopp, aged 10, to Walt Disney World - after raising £15,000 to help make the dream a reality.
The Disney-mad youngster from Cantley suffers from a range of severe complex medical needs and requires 24-hour care.
But, even when he is poorly, Jack loves to watch Disney films and it has been his wish to meet his favourite characters at the magical holiday destination for many years.
Victoria said: “Jack’s favourite film is Finding Nemo. He’s worn out at least five DVDs because he watches it so much. He loves it. We know all the words and even act it out to him if he is in pain or not well. It makes him smile.
“A few years ago, he was extremely poorly in hospital and as I was preparing for the worst I whispered to him that if he kept fighting I would get him to Disney World. Amazingly, he pulled through so I was so determined to make his wish come true.”
Jack suffers from a neurological disease so rare that doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where Jack regularly goes for treatment, are unable to diagnose it.
His condition means that he needs specially trained carers with him round the clock, and even when sleeping he is connected to a machine which monitors breathing.
As a result, Victoria had to plan for, and fund, lots of special requirements for Jack to make the trip possible - it was not just as simple as booking plane tickets.
Victoria said: “We were fundraising for about two years and raised about £15,000 and then the family put the rest to it. Altogether it cost about £40,000.
“We had to fly first class so Jack’s seat could convert into a bed, which helped with the pain he experiences because of his curved spine. When we got there we had a villa which was specially adapted for complex needs and a wheelchair accessible vehicle. We also had to hire medical equipment as Jack needed oxygen on the flight and regular medication to keep his airway safe which is very expensive.
“Then there was the cost of paying for medical insurance, the carers, the park tickets and a special tour of the Kennedy Space Centre, which all cost thousands of pounds.”
Jack and Victoria were joined on the two-week holiday to Disney World in Florida by Jack’s step dad, Jonathan Riley, who lives in Nottingham, and grandparents Jill and David Lee, who live in Bessacarr.
Over the fortnight, they packed in lots of fun-filled activities and visited as many places as possible to create lasting memories for all the family to cherish.
They visited the Disney animal kingdom and went on a mini safari and also visited Seaworld and the Universal Studios, where Jack was given a Harry Potter wand.
Jack also went swimming for the first time at the Discovery Cove amusement park, where he was also able to swim with dolphins. At the Jenny Space Centre, the youngster even met a NASA scientist who have him a special NASA coin.
He also saw Finding Nemo brought to life in a live-action version of the show and was able to meet all the cast, who gave him lots of gifts.
Victoria said: “The holiday was incredible. When we first started fundraising it felt like a lifetime away as it was such a huge task to undertake but I was so determined to get Jack there. It was just amazing. I can’t even describe how good it was.”
Jack is unable to walk or speak, but he is able to communicate with his family and friends using sign language.
Victoria said: “The best day was when Jack met Mickey and they were signing to each other. I didn’t know Mickey knew sign language. It was so cute and Jack was so excited.
“Jack said ‘hello, we are friends and I’m happy to see you’. Mickey said ‘hello and yes we are best friends Jack’. Then they repeated it and cuddled. It was absolutely adorable. I cried. It was just such an amazing thing to see and very emotional.”
Unsurprisingly, since returning from the dream holiday on October 11, Jack has been very keen to return.
Calling Jack a ‘miracle’, Victoria said: “You can see in his eyes and face just how happy he is. He signs fish and certain things about the holiday, it’s lovely.
“It was the ultimate dream to have the whole family there. Jack adored every second of it and often signs if he can go back. If an advert for Disney comes on the to he signs please and it’s so cute.
“I’m so pleased he had the best time ever and I have memories I will cherish forever. I wish we could take him away like that every year but at the cost of £40,000 due it’s just not possible.”