Tuesday, 22 October 2013

99th Garrison attends Dreamflight's send off - Sunday 20th October, 2013.

The 99th Garrison was privileged to be invited to Dreamflight's send off on Sunday 20th October, 2013.  If you follow my blog you should already know all about Dreamflight but if not.... shame on you!   You need to check out www.dreamflight.org for details.
The Crew and Pat Pearce MBE "Aunty Pat" boarding the plane.
The annual trip departs from a hangar at Heathrow airport every October and we were asked to attend to help entertain the 192 children [and adults] once they arrive at the hangar and wait to board the plane for their fantastic adventure!  By the way there is a deliberate absence of photos of children in this blog as Dreamflight has a very strict policy of non publication of photos of their children.
One of the many shuttle buses to the hangar.
This was my first troop after an enforced 6 week absence from trooping after an operation and is one that I was looking forward to as it provides an opportunity for those troopers who do attend to see for themselves what all the fundraising that we do throughout the year goes towards.  Seeing the children and their excitement and anticipation about their once in a lifetime trip helps to put things into perspective.  They may be poorly or have a disability but for them this is a chance of a lifetime to do things that they otherwise would not normally be able to do.
As well as doing the troop at the hangar on the Sunday I had volunteered to help out Dreamflight with the childrens' arrival at the Renaissance Hotel at Heathrow on the Saturday. This meant being there for 10:00am and then spending the morning with a small team of others sorting 192 Dreamflight T shirts, jackets and trousers into a bag for each child which was labelled and contained one of each item in the right size.  I then spent the afternoon helping with the check in and checked in my old friends from the Dolphin Group with whom I have previously done the trip on two occasions.  I had a lovely day doing this and stayed at the Hotel afterwards to see the children enjoy their evening party as well, leaving the hotel at about 8:30pm.
The band of the Welsh Guard and their mascot.
On Sunday morning we needed to be in armour by 09:00am so I was at the Hotel for 08:00am. We were joined by members of Milton Keynes Garrison and the Joker Squad and in all there was 20 of us! 
Missing Paul, Paul, Greg, Jim, Rachel and Stuart.
We were ready for 09:00am and entered the Hotel Lobby where we were immediately very popular and busy posing for photographs and signing autographs.  We then travelled on a shuttle bus with the Scooby Doo Group from Belfast for the short journey to the hangar with a police escort like you have never seen before.  The police officers are the Prime Ministers outriders but on this occasion had cuddly Tiggers, Mickies, Shreks etc to represent the 12 different Dreamflight groups on the back of their bikes and rode very close to the buses, sometimes with their hands on the bus windows whilst the buses were moving!
We just had to pose on the police outrider bikes when asked! :-)
On arrival at the hangar the Dreamflight 747 plane was parked close by ready and waiting for her precious cargo.  We posed for group photographs with the BA staff [there was a lot of them!] and then made our way to the Dolphin and Pirate Groups posing with them for group photos and then signing numerous autographs for some very excited children. 
Swapping helmets with the Welsh Guards.
We repeated this for all of the groups as they arrived on their shuttle buses and were kept very busy.  It is actually quite difficult signing autographs in costume!  We also spent some time with the Tigger group as a member of the 99th was going on the trip as an escort for 2 little boys. 

The military band of the Welsh Guard were also there along with their mascot Goat and the atmosphere was lovely.
Fett on a bike!
To my surprise Sir Cliff Richard also visited the hangar and children.  Dreamflight has been in existence now for 27 years and he has been a patron of the charity for several years.  Having been to the hangar on three occasions in the past this was the first time that I had seen him there.  His presence created a bit of a media buzz!  His visit was filmed and has appeared in several news programmes and if you look at what is going on behind him you will see Dave , Chris and me attempting to do The Macarena in armour with Jo and Nigel from the Dolphin Group.  See http://www.itv.com.news/meridian/update/2013-10-21/dreamflight-full-interview-with-sir-cliff-richard   .
With one of Heathrow's engines and crew
Having got to the hangar at about 09:45am the children actually started to board the plane at about mid-day; group by group and was ready for departure at about 1:10pm.  As it made its way to the run way the plane was given a water cannon salute by two of the airport's fire-engines at which point a rainbow also appeared over the plane... very apt!!
Dreamflight's British Water cannon salute.
We also spent some time in the hangar with the police and fire service who were also there to entertain the children.  They had bought engines, vehicles and dogs and we got to see them all. The police also wanted photos of the biker scouts sat on their bikes and of course, we obliged!  We even got Boba Fett and Chewbacca to sit on one of their bikes!
Chewwie on a bike!
Once the plane had departed, we were then escorted back to the Renaissance Hotel by shuttle bus where sandwiches and chips had been supplied for us and were most welcome!
One of the police officers and dogs with Rach.
A huge thank you to Pat Pearce MBE, Paula Wyatt and Caroline Fleming from Dreamflight for inviting us to the hangar and giving us this opportunity to take part in your amazing adventure.
One of the officers sticking his head out of the plane... like you do on an average flight!
Huge thanks also to Ken, Darren, John, Dave, Rachel, Jim, Emma, Darren, Chris, Craig, Dave P, Jeff, Michaela, Allen, Dan, Stuart, Greg, Paul S and Paul H.   Here's hoping we return for Dreamflight 2014!!
Believe it or not this is the pilot and first officer with Dave P!