Last month, Rocky Mountaineer welcomed 10 seriously ill children and their families onboard their final train of the 2021 season for a life-changing adventure from Banff, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia! In partnership with Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada, this train journey was donated to help families cope, find their smiles again, and bring home plenty of heart-warming memories to hold onto when things get tough.
Among the kids and families from across the country onboard this trip of a lifetime was 7-year-old Ryker. At only 5 weeks old, Ryker’s kidneys stopped working. Daily dialysis, hospital visits, scary machines with tubes, surgeries and doctors’ appointments quickly took over his childhood. Fighting ongoing medical challenges can be a lonely journey, and the toughest part for his family is watching him realize all that he misses out on.
“With all the obstacles that we have faced in the last 7 years, this trip is something we didn’t think we would get to do because we are stuck at home so often,” shared Ryker’s mom, Magda. “When we do go out, it’s for some memories to remind us of the happy times away from the hospitalizations. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The fact that we get to do this as a family is even more special.”
While on his 2-day Rocky Mountaineer trip with families facing similar struggles, Ryker took in the scenic views of Western Canada, played alongside Starlight Canada’s resident superhero, Captain Starlight, decorated cookies thanks to the train chefs, and ultimately, finally found the time to connect, laugh, and relax with his family and newfound friends.
On the eve before their departure, stars aligned as it was time for Ryker to celebrate the 5th anniversary of his kidney transplant. Ryker was gifted a medal of honour in front of Starlight families and staff in recognition of his courage, resilience, and strength. To wrap up the trip, every child onboard also received a personal hand-written card from Captain Starlight and a medal branded with Starlight Canada and Rocky Mountaineer elements as a token to remember their own journey and bravery.
By Ryker’s side on the trip was 7-year-old Brielle who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 11-year-old Jordan who was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, 8-year-old Sam who lives with cerebral palsy and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and many other deserving Starlight children. All were accompanied by their immediate family members and received round trip flights, generously donated by the Air Canada Foundation.
A huge thank you to Rocky Mountaineer and the Air Canada Foundation for making dream trips come true and for connecting families from coast to coast who need it most.
Another special thank you to the Oak + Avenue Hotel in Banff for the donation of incredible 2-story rooms for our families, the Good Earth Coffee House in Banff for hosting us for a private dinner with patio space to celebrate the evening of our journey, and to Brewster Express for donating the shuttle to from the Calgary airport to Banff!
To help make more adventures like this possible, donate today at give.starlightcanada.org.