You couldn’t wipe the smile off the face of seven-year-old Lochlyn McDonald as she sat on a couch at the West Shore Child, Youth and Family Centre in Colwood.
The recipient with her family of a Disney Caribbean cruise, courtesy of the Help Fill a Dream Foundation, the Langford child was thrilled and surprised last week to share a party for the “dream reveal” with three of her favourite princesses: Elsa and Anna from the Disney animated hit Frozen, and Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
“She is pumped,” her dad, Rob McDonald, said as he looked over at his daughter, who held a magic wand and sported a princess’ tiara. “Those are her two best friends sitting on either side of her right now. She has the dolls at home and doesn’t go anywhere without them.”
The celebration, attended by family, friends, and professionals who have worked with Lochlyn and her parents to manage the effects on her of Costello Syndrome, was a humbling experience along with the gift itself, Rob said.
“It’s pretty spectacular how a community can come together and fund something as amazing as this trip is for us,” he said. “It’s extremely humbling and we often feel we’re undeserving, so it’s hard to swallow at times, but it’s definitely an amazing feat.”
Rob and Carmen McDonald said the family is looking forward to getting away from the busy-ness of life for a little bit of time. The cruise leaves Miami on April 30 and travels through the Panama Canal en route to southern California.
“It’ll be great to reconnect as a family and kind of leave the rat race behind, just be able to relax, or swim or just be, really – regular family stuff,” Carmen said.
Costello Syndrome is a very rare disorder which affects growth, intellectual ability and bone formation, among other symptoms, and commonly comes with heart problems.
Tiny Lochlyn, who turns eight in May, has undergone two kidney surgeries, the latter of which saw doctors remove kidney stones. Her heart is also closely monitored.
Her mom described some of those medical challenges her daughter has overcome.
“After her second surgery she was this completely different child. Over the course of the last year and a half or two years, she’s been healthy,” Carmen said. “We’re pretty ecstatic that she’s healthy enough to travel at the end of April.”
A recent scan found Lochlyn’s kidneys to be clear and a heart checkup found no change, both good signs and relieving news before the family travels out of country, Carmen said.
Rob said the trip will be “a nice time to recharge and get back together as a family. With my son’s sports and (Lochlyn’s) therapies and such, it takes us all over the map.”
Older brother Ayden, 12, an avid basketball and lacrosse player, said he’s looking forward to meeting Goofy on the cruise. And even though he’ll miss a lacrosse tournament while they’re away, he’s very much looking forward to his first real holiday since his grandfather took the extended family of 11 to Mexico four years ago.
Once the excitement had died down a little, Help Fill a Dream executive director Craig Smith reflected on the meaning of these celebration events.
“For me, it’s so emotional to see the family together,” he said, “and how they look forward to doing something together and getting away from all the not-so-nice things that are happening in their lives at various times. These are my favourite days, by far, and they never grow old. Every one is different and each child is different.”
Numerous hours of fundraising and other volunteer work goes into the creation of a dream for a sick or recovering child, he said. Being able to share the end result with a family and their supporters makes all the behind-the-scenes efforts worthwhile. “This is bigger than just Lochlyn or Help Fill a Dream, it’s how a community comes together to say to a family, ‘you deserve this.'”
Asked what she most looks forward to about this trip of a lifetime, part-time princess Lochlyn admitted she’s keen on meeting Minnie Mouse.
For more information Help Fill a Dream, visit helpfilladream.com.