Many thanks to share af­ter a dream-come-true trip

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY DOU­GLAS BUT­LER Ed­i­tor’s note: Doug is 48 years old. He has cere­bral palsy. Clau­dia has been his res­i­den­tial sup­port staff per­son for four years. She notes that “he is al­ways cheer­ful, he made half of the peo­ple in the air­port smile, got to talk to ma

My name is Dou­glas But­ler and I live in the Com­mu­nity Liv­ing Al­ter­na­tives So­ci­ety (CLAS) group home in Wolfville. For the past sev­eral years I have had a big dream – to fly in a real, big air­plane.

I go to work ev­ery day at The Flower Cart in New Mi­nas, but no mat­ter how hard I worked, I was un­able to save enough money to make this dream come true. I had to come up with an ac­tion plan.

With the help of one of my sup­port work­ers, Clau­dia Elss­ner, I was fi­nally able to start my jour­ney to achiev­ing my dream. Start­ing in 2016, sev­eral things needed to hap­pen in or­der to bring me closer to mak­ing my wish a re­al­ity. I needed a govern­ment is­sued ID, a med­i­cal clear­ance to fly and I needed to have money to pur­chase a ticket. I con­tin­ued to dream and dream and dream.

Through lots of lit­tle fundrais­ers, I was able to gather mo­men­tum in my ef­forts. A big thank you to the Gar­den House B&B in Wolfville, the L’Arche Ap­plewicks shop and the staff and res­i­dents of CLAS for dis­play­ing var­i­ous things that Clau­dia made to sell, and thanks for telling my story and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to buy the items. With the help of my good friends, Sherry and Grant Bishop, and my for­mer foster par­ents, Bill and Barb Graves, I was even­tu­ally able to col­lect enough money to buy a plane ticket.

Thanks to Air Canada’s help, I only needed a ticket for my­self; my sup­port per­son would ac­com­pany me for free since I couldn’t fly on my own. Now I had to choose a des­ti­na­tion - not too close as I wanted to cher­ish ev­ery minute of the flight - but not too far as I am not able to sit for longer pe­ri­ods of time. I set­tled on New­found­land’s cap­i­tal, St. John’s.

Trip­cen­tral in Wolfville as­sisted me in book­ing a suit­able flight, as well as my one-night ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion. As I picked up my tick­ets I was so ex­cited. I couldn’t be­lieve my dream was go­ing to come true. How amaz­ing, what a great feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment. I had many ques­tions. Where would my lug­gage go? Will I fit into the seat? Where would I put my wheel­chair? Did the cap­tain know where to fly?

On Sept. 11, I fi­nally went to the air­port. I checked in and my lug­gage was taken. I told peo­ple I was go­ing to be fly­ing in a big plane for the first time. The se­cu­rity check was very thor­ough and re­ally in­ter­est­ing.

“We are pretty lucky where we live that we don’t have to deal with some of the very se­ri­ous and very present prob­lems that other parts of the coun­try do.

I’m not say­ing that we live in a per­fect, prob­lem-free town - not by a long shot. What I am say­ing is we have a chance to grow as a com­mu­nity and to solve some of the is­sues – such as youth bore­dom - that are found lo­cally here and maybe even pre­vent some is­sues from form­ing in the first place.”

I was the first per­son to board the plane. Ground per­son­nel were very ac­com­mo­dat­ing, help­ful and com­pletely fo­cused on me. I trans­ferred into my seat and I waited for my fel­low pas­sen­gers to come along. The flight at­ten­dant started to chat with me heard my story.

The flight at­ten­dant an­nounced my name and told ev­ery­one about my first time be­ing on a big air­plane. He called me a ‘spe­cial guest’ and told ev­ery­one my seat num­ber. I was thrilled. As I waited to de­plane, most of the pas­sen­gers said good­bye to me and wished me all the best. As ground per­son­nel in New­found­land got ready to help, I took a pic­ture with the cap­tain and the crew. I even got to wear the cap­tain’s hat!

St John’s is an amaz­ing city; the peo­ple are friendly and help­ful. My cab driver went to ex­tra lengths to make my drive with him mem­o­rable. He even took me for a short sight­see­ing drive and I was able to check out the view from Sig­nal Hill. At the Ocean Science Cen­tre, I got a spe­cial tour even though they were ac­tu­ally closed for the sea­son.

I spent a night at a great ho­tel and slept very well. The next day it was time to re­turn to Nova Sco­tia. As I went around the air­port I smiled at ev­ery­body and some peo­ple re­mem­bered me from the pre­vi­ous day. I felt like a celebrity.

Once I boarded the plane for home the flight at­ten­dant al­ready knew my name. I guess I am fa­mous around St. John’s air­port. I was the spe­cial pas­sen­ger again.

At the air­port in Hal­i­fax I was picked up by my friends, Sherry and Grant, to drive me back to Wolfville.

So many peo­ple were in­volved in mak­ing this trip hap­pen. I am es­pe­cially grate­ful to Clau­dia. We made mem­o­ries that will last for for­ever.

I would like to thank ev­ery­one who helped and I can’t wait to start work­ing on our next ad­ven­ture.


Dou­glas But­ler was happy to share his gift for mak­ing peo­ple smile with folks he en­coun­tered dur­ing a dream-cometrue trip that en­tailed a flight on a real, big air­plane.


Dou­glas But­ler was all smiles dur­ing his big ad­ven­ture to New­found­land, a trip made pos­si­ble by a com­bi­na­tion of his own hard work and the gen­eros­ity of oth­ers.

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