Behind the scenes: Planning a Shine DreamLift

Planning a Shine DreamLift is a job suited for the best team of superheroes. The skills and superpowers of the best coordinators goes into orchestrating our one-day whirlwind adventure to Disney and back.

Working with our National Board of Directors, we narrow down a date and location for our upcoming Shine DreamLift up to two years in advance. During this time, we work behind the scenes to finalize our budget, raise funds, and secure a charter flight from the selected location in Canada. DreamLift cities are chosen based on their distance to a Disney Park in order to minimize a child’s time in the air and being confined in an airplane, regional or national support, and referral partners that we work with.

Over 30 years, we have invited some of the most medically fragile kids to experience a Shine DreamLift.  Our relationships with referral partners (physicians, clinics, and specialists) ensure we can take care of the medical and physical needs of the child and remove barriers that would in other circumstances keep them from participating.

As we get closer to DreamLift day, and all approval letters have been sent out to kids and volunteers, our Program team focuses their energies to the finer details to make sure every last detail falls exactly in place. They speak with the airlines and Disney Parks to confirm safety, security and logistics. The goal is to make sure the experience for every child and their matched volunteer is the most positive and impactful journey possible and that everything runs smoothly.

The largest, and most time-intensive piece of our planning focuses on the matching process where we pair kids together and create their support group of volunteers. When we start to pair groups, we look at kids’ biometrics, interests, and Disney goals. “[Next], we picture in our head, if this child was in a group, who would they be best surrounded by to ensure they have the most incredible day ever,” says National Program Manager, Krista Minnice. Volunteers are selected based on skill set (often medical expertise to meet the child’s needs) and relatable interests to the child. Lastly, these groups are matched with volunteers from American law enforcement in Florida or California (dependent on DreamLift location).

By the time we get to DreamLift, our Program’s team has developed an incredible superpower of knowing each of the participants as a member of the Shine family. They have communicated with them in detail over the past several months to learn as much as possible about their interests, needs, likes and wants, and to reassure parents that their child will be cared for by the best team possible while navigating the magic and wonders of Disney.

On DreamLift day, the Programs Team superpowers are called into action to take on the best powers of the Incredibles team: They sort airport logistics like Dash, help tag and organize wheelchairs like Elastigirl, guard a child’s worries like Violet, and have the strength and durability of Mr. Incredible throughout the 20+ hour day. However, they leave the best superpower to the kids: Jack Jack’s power! With so many abilities, he is a metaphor for how at the end of the day, DreamLift participants discover they are capable of infinite possibilities when they arrive back home to the joy of their waiting families.