Paige Orcherton is spirited and strong-willed, so when she was presented with a one-day, whirlwind trip to the Magic Kingdom, she didn’t look back.
The 13-year-old Coldstream youth was among 64 children with severe disabilities or life-threatening illnesses that participated in the Sunshine Dreamlift flight to Disneyland Tuesday.
“I remember the feeling of taking off from the (Kelowna) airport. I knew I was going to California and I had a whole day ahead of me,” said Paige, who is a Grade 9 student at Kalamalka Secondary School.
But as much as Disneyland is fun, the experience was daunting.
It was out of bed early because the plane was leaving the Okanagan at 7 a.m. From there, it would be a few hours to Anaheim, followed by six hours of pure magic. The trip then reversed itself and the tired but enthusiastic crowd returned to Kelowna at midnight.
Paige, though, tackled the challenge head-on, just like she does with the rest of her life.
“I’m capable of doing anything except singing,” says Paige, who has severe hearing loss.
An interpreter and special equipment are required daily during classes. She must also deal with people’s perceptions about her disability.
“Some people are scared to talk to me or they may be judgemental,” she said.
But Disneyland presented her with an opportunity to just be a kid, and to explore all Disneyland had to offer, including Space Mountain.
“You get dizzy in there with the lights,” she said.
“But it’s a good kind of dizzy — fast and fun.”
Stops were also made at the Matterhorn and Space Blasters while there were celebrity sightings with Goofy and Star Wars stormtroopers.
Paige was escorted by a member of the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department who volunteered their time for the day.
“Once we got to know each other, we just went and had fun,” said Paige of her newfound friend.
Disneyland was also an opportunity for Paige to pursue her passion for pennies, picking up some distinct coins for her collection.
“I have over 1,000 pennies,” she said, adding that her considerable hat collection also now features Minnie Mouse ears.
Back at home, mom Robin was left wondering how her daughter’s day was unfolding.
“It was nice, though, to know she was getting some independence,” said Robin.
Sunshine Dreamlift was possible because of funds raised every year by Wendy’s restaurants in the Thompson-Okanagan.
“It was a fabulous opportunity for her. It was a once in a lifetime chance,” said Robin.
Paige has been busy since Tuesday reliving her experiences for friends and family, and looking forward to a return trip to Disneyland one day in the future.
But her feet are planted firmly on the ground in Coldstream — just the way she wants it.
“It was really good to come home,” she said.