Northern Lights is a charity set up in memory of Christopher Johnson, who died in 1987. The charity raises funds to give children with life-limiting illnesses the unique experience of a special holiday they will never forget to Lapland to meet Father Christmas.
The children are aged between six and eleven, treated at local hospitals in the North West of England and North Wales, and nominated by medical staff and social workers at the hospitals.
The holiday may be one of the first long trips without their parents, apart from stays in hospital. They are accompanied by caring adults, but are allowed to be as independent as they want, to make new friends, and be totally occupied with exciting experiences and having fun. They meet the big man himself as well as riding with husky dogs, visiting reindeer, having a try on a skidoo and complete an Arctic Circle crossing ceremony. Temperatures can reach -20ºC, but they have fun in the snow and return more confident and with a lot of stories to tell.
Back home after their holiday, there are benefits that last well after the trip. They have a break from the treatment regime and an escape from being perceived as a sick person; able to be someone else for a short time. The holiday allows them to rebuild confidence and self-esteem, to improve their strength and reduce their anxiety by providing a means of escapism. The children return full of the joys of spring, have renewed vigour, and are ready to continue with their fight against disease. Social skills improve and some lost confidence returns.
The holidays can provide a useful component in the treatment of these illnesses and we are proud to have played a small part in this role. Dr. Hilary Jones, our patron, commented, “As a doctor, we need moments like this to remind ourselves of why we do what we do, and to drive us to continue to strive to find the answers to the cruel diseases which can affect children and adults alike, and to make us all grateful for what we have, even if it is merely good health.”
On the announcement on 2 June 2015 of the charity receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services (QAVS), Karen Jones, Chairman and founding member of Northern Lights, said: “We are honoured and delighted to have been acknowledged for our work within the local community benefiting children with life limiting illnesses in the North West of England. When the charity was founded in 1987 (as the Christopher Johnson Fund), we had no idea that nearly 30 years later we would still be sending children with life limiting illnesses on these wonderful holidays. I would like to thank the committee members of Northern Lights both past and present for their tireless work in raising funds and for all the support we have received from everyone in Neston and the local community together with all our supporters countywide.”
Update 21 December 2016 – Lapland 2016
The Northern Lights Children’s Charities annual trip to Lapland for children with life limiting illnesses took off to Kittila in Northern Finland, north of the Arctic circle, early Friday morning 16th December. The 20 very excited children, who were nominated by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and Arrowe Park Hospital on Wirral ranged in age from 6 – 10 and were accompanied by 10 volunteer helpers, which included 4 specialist nurses. Reports before the trip warned us that the temperatures were going to be very cold, the latest one we received was of -35 degrees, but in fact we only encountered -3 degrees which is perfect with cold weather clothing.
Parents dropped the children off at the Holiday Inn Express at the airport on Thursday evening and after an early night the children were up at just after 3 am for our flight to Kittila. The total party of 30 people checked into Manchester airport and were guided though security as quickly as possible ready for our 6.45 am flight.
We arrived in Kittila just after 10 am, but with the 2-hour time difference is was now just after noon.
A short bus ride to the hotel followed and the hunt for Santa began. Only 0 degrees when we arrived at the hotel, positively warm! We checked into our rooms and went for a quick lunch before trying on all our cold weather clothing. We went to meet Hal & Rudi and after an early dinner it was soon time for bed after an exhausting day of travel for 20 very tired youngsters (and adults!) and the temperature had only dropped to -3 degrees.
Day 2 in Lapland saw all 20 children on huskie and reindeer rides, skidoo rides, tobogganing, an Artic Circle ceremony, a rainbow, beautiful red sky, swimming, outdoor hot tub along with lying on the ice doing snow angels in swimwear oh yes and an attempt at the mannequin challenge. We have 20 very happy children.
Brenda Light, one of the nurses, said “I feel so privileged to be part of it all” and a lovely quote from one of the children coming back from today’s activities “That was the best day ever” and there is still much more to come!
Day 3 in Lapland was spent hunting for Santa again. After breakfast we spent time tobogganing and after lunch went on a journey to a magical forest where it is said “if you are lucky you may find Santa’s Post Office”. We not only found the post office, but Santa was at home!
Day 4……the last full day in Lapland was spent visiting the Levi Husky Park where we got up close, very close with the reindeers and huskies and went on a 2 km sleigh ride across a frozen lake.
In the afternoon, 10 Pin Bowling was our activity and then back to the rooms to get ready for the Gala Party. A great time was had by all and Santa turned up again to give each of the children a present.
Day 5, our final morning in Lapland was spent having a quick breakfast and packing our cases ready for our journey home. After goodbyes to all the lovely helpers at the Hotel and from Monarch, it was a short bus ride back to the airport. A great group of children, who were well behaved, have made many new friends, have memories for life of a fun-filled time in Lapland when they met the real Father Christmas and played in the snow for 5 days. It was a time to forget some of their trips to hospital and just be children again!
Huge thanks go to all our volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the whole trip, the staff at the Holiday Inn Express at Manchester Airport, the helpers at Monarch and those working in the background to ensure everything runs so smoothly, the staff at Manchester Airport, and Andy Willis, Transport Operations Manager for Manchester Airport Buses. Add in the kind people who organise our insurance, the donation of clothing every year from Nyquist Group and everyone who raises money throughout the year to allow us to book these holidays and we have a huge debt of thanks to so many.
Special thanks go to our nurses, words cannot adequately describe how much respect and admiration we have for those who travel with the charity. They give up their time to care for and be with the children. They work tirelessly to make sure their patients are always comfortable and happy. We watch and marvel at their dedication and care, they all sleep with one eye open and one ear pressed to the wall, we can’t thank them enough!
As we enter our 30th Anniversary year, THANK YOU EVERYONE and especially the committee of Northern Lights for all your time and effort in ensuring we can continue to organise these trips.
Please sign up to our FB pages @Northernlights.childrenscharity (Northern Lights Children’s Charity) and @NLParkgateCarnival (Northern Lights Parkgate Carnival) for all information on our 30th Anniversary events.