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