Dreamlift kids prepare for Disneyland adventure

Rio Manning (right) is one of 64 Dreamlift kids who will go to Disneyland on Tuesday, Dec. 6. His father, Cam, says the trip will be a great experience for Rio. - Doug Farrow/Contributor
Rio Manning (right) is one of 64 Dreamlift kids who will go to Disneyland on Tuesday, Dec. 6. His father, Cam, says the trip will be a great experience for Rio.
— image credit: Doug Farrow/Contributor

The Monsters Inc. ride.

That's likely the first place nine-year-old Rio Manning will run to on Tuesday, Dec. 6, when he and 63 other kids arrive at Disneyland.

The kids--ranging from age seven to 18--will fly out of Kelowna at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning as part of the Sunshine Foundation's one-day trip to Disneyland for children who are challenged by severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

The event is made possible thanks to the Wendy's Dreamlift Day annual fundraiser.

This year’s version took place at Wendy's locations in Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna and Penticton on Jan. 26, 2011. A total of $109,382.45 was raised during the fundraiser to help fund the cost of the Disneyland trip, which is approximately $150,000.

When the plane arrives in Anaheim, California, around 10 a.m., the kids will be escorted from the airport tarmac to Disneyland by Orange County Sheriff's Department volunteers.

Then Rio and the other children, alongside their chaperones, will have hours to explore the park. Rio said that he's already been researching what Disneyland has to offer via Youtube videos.

At first glance, it's hard to notice that Rio is physically different than any other kid his age. Only at a closer look does it become evident that Rio was born without a right arm.

"I get around pretty good, but sometimes I don't like watching my friends go on the monkey bars and using playground equipment that I'm not able to use," explained Rio.

"I say to myself, 'I wish I could use the monkey bars: They look like so much fun.'"

Although Rio is sometimes envious of his friends, there is a good chance that all of his friends will be jealous of him on Tuesday when Rio gets to enjoy "the happiest place on Earth."

Cam Manning, Rio's father, said that he's excited that his son is getting this opportunity.

"Disneyland is a place where every kid needs to go," said Cam.

He said that the trip will likely be a learning experience for Rio.

"It will be a great opportunity because there are going to be kids there with far greater disabilities than Rio. He will see and appreciate that."

Sixty support volunteers--many of whom are healthcare workers--will be on hand, ready to deal with medical issues that may arise during the day.

Around 6 p.m. the kids will depart Disneyland and begin mentally preparing the stories they will get to tell their parents later that evening.

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