Brandy Meisner and her son Tyler, 12, recently went on a “magical” trip of a lifetime – and it was completely free.
Meisner, along with 12 other families from across Canada, travelled to Banff, Alberta. From there, they hopped aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train, which took them on a two-day journey through the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver.
More than 500 families entered their names to go on the trip, and only 13 were chosen. All the families are a part of the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Brian Bringolf, the CEO of Starlight, said the foundation’s goal is simple.
“Starlight’s mission is to brighten the lives of seriously ill children, and we do anything and everything to make that happen,” he said.
Tyler was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (type 1) at nine months old. People with this condition often develop tumours on their nerve endings. Thankfully, this has not happened to Tyler, Meisner said. He does have some developmental delays and most recently was diagnosed with autism. As a result of his condition, his long bones are bowed, which causes him to break his bones often.
He has had many surgeries and has been in and out of the hospital many times. Overall, he is a happy child content to play on his iPad, Meisner said. He is mainly home bound due to his autism, anxiety, and constant medical appointments.
For Tyler, going on a walk to the local Walmart or playing on the swings is a big outing. So taking this trip was a big deal.
Meisner said the trip created life-long memories and connections. Tyler was “over the moon” the entire trip, she said, adding he would wake up each morning asking for the other kids who were on the trip with him.
The train car was also a safe space – a place of “acceptance and understanding, where we could just be us,” added Meisner.
“To see him light up like that and interact with these other kids was huge,” said Meisner, who describes the experience as “magical.”
Tyler even felt comfortable being away from his mom and was not constantly looking back at her for answers. Meisner figures this was because he felt safe and understood. Other families on the trip understood how to communicate with him.
Meisner first heard about Starlight from a friend. The foundation has numerous programs, from hospital programs to monthly activities in communities across the country.
Tyler is not always able to attend all of the events due to his regular medical appointments and trips to the hospital. But when he is, they are often events that Tyler and Meisner look forward to.
The next event is for Halloween and is one they are both looking forward to.