In an uplifting tale of resilience and community support, 13-year-old Hughie Higginson, a recipient of the prestigious Pride of Britain and Pride of Manchester awards, recently embarked on a life-changing journey.
Despite his battle with leukaemia, Hughie’s determination to make a difference has been recognised and celebrated.
Now, he’s experiencing his first holiday in three years, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Destination Florida, an Eccles-based charity that flies deserving children to Orlando.
This heartwarming initiative has brought smiles to the faces of 74 children from the northwest of England, providing them with unforgettable memories and much-needed respite.
A Dream Come True for Deserving Children
Destination Florida, a charity with a mission to create magical experiences for children facing complex and life-limiting medical conditions, organised this extraordinary trip.
The children, aged six to 16, were treated to an enchanting adventure in Orlando, where they explored the wonders of Disney and Universal theme parks.
The highlight of the trip included a captivating Cirque Du Soleil show and a delightful team-building pool party.
Supporting Children’s Dreams and Medical Needs
Destination Florida doesn’t just make dreams come true; it also ensures the safety and well-being of the children.
A dedicated team of medical, nursing, and non-medical volunteers provided round-the-clock care, equipped with a mobile hospital staffed by doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists.
This unique combination of support allowed children like Hughie to experience the trip of a lifetime.
They are a huge credit to Eccles and Greater Manchester for the wonderful work they do.
Hughie’s Inspiring Journey
Hughie, hailing from greater Manchester, captured the hearts of many when he was awarded the Pride of Britain’s Good Morning Britain Young Fundraiser of the Year and the Pride of Manchester Fundraiser of the Year in 2021.
Together with his best friend Freddie Xavi, Hughie raised a remarkable £300,000 in gratitude to the doctors and nurses at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
His battle with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia began in September 2020, and he continues his treatment, undergoing chemotherapy at Manchester Children’s Hospital until March next year.
For Hughie, this trip marked a significant milestone, as he expressed his excitement, saying, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Providing Respite for Parents and Guardians
The importance of this initiative extends beyond the children themselves.
For parents and guardians who often shoulder the full-time responsibility of caring for their children, this trip offers eight days of invaluable respite.
Knowing that their child is in the hands of dedicated medical professionals allows them to unwind and recharge.
Medical Expertise and Dedicated Support
Dr. Adam Nicholls, a consultant in pediatric intensive care at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, led the medical team on this remarkable journey.
He marvelled at the progress the children made throughout the trip, noting that the experience helped them overcome shyness and grow in confidence.
With diverse and complex medical conditions among the children, the hotel itself became a mini hospital, providing the necessary care and support.
A Journey That Started with Compassion
Destination Florida traces its roots back to 1987 when Dr. David Evans and Sister Alex Shaw were inspired to create this initiative.
Their inspiration came from witnessing northern-based children being nominated for a trip to Florida through a London-based charity but not being selected.
The inaugural Destination Florida trip began with 25 children, and since then, the charity has continued to touch the lives of countless children in need.
Changing Lives One Child at a Time
As the children and their caregivers experienced this transformative journey, it was evident how this initiative positively impacted their lives.
Lead nurse Deborah McKenna praised the growth in confidence she witnessed among the children.
Some children had never been away from their parents due to their medical needs or had never been on a plane.
This trip provided them with newfound independence and unforgettable memories.
Ged Mason, CEO of event sponsor Morson Group from Salford, has been a volunteer on Destination Florida trips for an astounding 27 years.
Morson Group has been supporting this initiative for over 30 years, treating children facing serious illnesses with the care and attention they deserve.
With dedicated medical professionals and volunteers, they aim to sprinkle a bit of magic into the lives of these deserving children.
Community Support and Celebrity Backing
Among the volunteers for this heartwarming initiative was Emma Neville, the wife of former Manchester United legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville.
The trip was sponsored by Emma’s business, This Is Me, showcasing the widespread support and involvement of the community in making this trip a reality.
A Journey Filled with Joy
Chair of Trustees Michael Hymanson, an MBE awardee for services to the children’s charity, expressed his delight at overseeing his 14th Destination Florida trip.
He emphasised the profound impact this initiative had on both the children and the dedicated caregivers, who together created unforgettable memories and provided professional care to children facing various medical challenges.
Destination Florida’s commitment to changing the lives of children facing medical adversity shines brightly through this remarkable journey.
Hughie Higginson’s inspiring story, along with the tireless efforts of medical professionals, volunteers, and sponsors, exemplifies the power of community and compassion.
As these deserving children return home with cherished memories, Destination Florida continues to provide hope and support to those who need it most.
For more information about Destination Florida and their incredible work, please click here.