The happiest place on earth

Dreams Take Flight Calgary 2011

Calgary pediatrician Dr. Neil D.J. Cooper makes dreams come true by helping medically fragile children visit the magic kingdom through his work with Dreams Take Flight.

Maybe it’s the Patch Adams effect, but you’ll see these kids improve. It’s amazing to see the difference a day like this can make.

Black Tie and Blue Jeans on BT


Dr. Neil Cooper shares the initiative, and their Black Tie and Blue Jeans fundraiser, with Breakfast Television (click through to the CityTV website to view the video).

Dr. Neill D.J. Cooper with Zap SinghAsk anyone who’s organized a trip with young kids and they’ll tell you it’s like herding cats. Now imagine traveling with up to 140 children with complex needs for a one-day trip to one of the busiest tourist destinations on the planet – Disneyland.

“There’s a lot of planning,” explains Dr. Neil D.J. Cooper, a Calgary pediatrician and long-time volunteer with Dreams Take Flight. “But after all this time, we’ve created a pretty good system for getting it all done.”

Now in its 20th year, the organization works with dozens of local agencies to take referrals for children aged seven to 12 living with an array of mental, physical, social, emotional or medical challenges.

“We ask the agencies to nominate two to six kids from each who meet the criteria, and then we get to work getting them there.”

Dr. Neil CooperIt’s become a labor of love for Dr. Cooper and his entire family. “My wife Colleen gets 140 children across the border each year.” Often that means working with the families to complete the application forms, even assisting families with literacy challenges. “Usually by September of each year, our house explodes with paperwork,” laughs Dr. Cooper.

In addition to the kids nominated by community agencies, when space allows the organization will even try to include others in the adventure. “Many years we’ll invite siblings to the airport under the auspices of seeing their brother or sister off, and then we’re able to say “you want to come?” Of course the parents know in advance, but the kids are pretty shocked to get the chance to go along.”

Despite all the work, it’s an experience Dr. Cooper treasures. “One of the rules is that they’ve never been before, so you get a lot of kids saying ‘it’s the best day ever.’ You can see the joy in their faces.”

He also notes that you can often see a change in their health as well. “Maybe it’s the Patch Adams effect, but you’ll see these kids improve. It’s amazing to see the difference a day like this can make.”


Watch this video of a Calgary Dreams Take Flight trip.

More about Dr. Cooper's projects

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