Catherine Pretty, 45, from Surrey, tells us about her son Daniel’s holiday of a lifetime to Orlando


Catherine Pretty was enjoying a holiday in Canada in 2007 when her waters broke prematurely. “I was only 19 weeks pregnant and went into a panic,” she says. Catherine and her husband, Simon, rushed to hospital, where they were told one of their twin babies had tragically died. “We were heartbroken and also anxious about our other son, who we weren’t sure would survive.” Catherine stayed in hospital for the next four weeks, before being allowed to fly home for complete bed rest. “It’s incredibly rare to keep one twin when the other gets delivered, but fortunately Daniel held on until 30 weeks. As he was still so premature we knew there might be complications, but we just felt lucky to have him.” Daniel was taken for a brain scan, which revealed that he had cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition affecting movement and coordination. “We had no idea what it meant or how it might affect him, as the condition has such a huge spectrum of outcomes. I just remember thinking to myself, ‘I hope I have a child who knows who I am.’ That was my biggest worry.” Fortunately Daniel, now 12, exceeded all expectations. “Physically it affects every muscle in his body, so he can’t stand or walk without any equipment. He uses a wheelchair to get around and his hand and arm movements are affected. However, it hasn’t affected him cognitively. He is very bright and chatty, has an amazing memory and vocabulary and is doing really well at school. He is also medically very healthy. “Four years ago, Daniel had an operation called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), where the nerves are cut in the spine to try to interrupt the communication problems that cause the condition. Cerebral palsy can get more challenging with age, as the body gets stiffer and heavier and more difficult to move around as a result, so we’re hoping this will help to keep him mobile as he gets older. He also has physiotherapy every week to help with his movement.” For Daniel, one of the main challenges has been gaining independence. “Unfortunately, he always has to have an adult with him, which he finds difficult and makes it harder for him to make friends. It can also be difficult for him to access all the activities and places his friends can, so he has been unable to attend things such as birthday parties in the past. We don’t want to put limits on what he can do, but sometimes he just can’t take part in things, which can be quite frustrating for him.”


“Cerebral palsy affects every muscle in Daniel’s body, so he can’t stand or walk without equipment, he used a wheelchair to get around and his hand and arm movements are affected”



One of the highlights of Daniel’s holiday in Orlando was meeting R2-D2 from the Star Wars films!




In 2018, Daniel’s paediatrician mentioned to Catherine that she had put him forward for a holiday of a lifetime in Orlando in Florida, hosted by the charity Dreamflight. “We couldn’t believe it when we found out he’d been accepted for a trip the next October, and Daniel was completely over the moon. Apart from a short trip for school he had never been away without us, so was really nervous but also incredibly excited – and it definitely lived up to all his hopes.

“They packed in so much, visiting a different theme park every day, going swimming with dolphins and having parties every night. Daniel loves music, so enjoyed being on the dance floor every evening, and he had an amazing time riding the roller coasters. With having cerebral palsy, Daniel can’t really physically challenge himself or get that sense of a thrill other children can from mountain biking or jumping off a diving board, for example, so he loved the adrenalin rush of going on the biggest rides.” The trip also provided Catherine and Simon with a valuable opportunity to spend time with their younger son, Dexter, now nine. “To be able to make a fuss of Dexter was great, as siblings do struggle when one child gets so much attention. We love being outdoors and going hill walking but it’s not something we can normally do as a family, so we took Dexter to Wales and went up Snowdon, which was great.”

“Daniel came back buzzing with confidence”

Since Daniel’s trip away, Catherine has continued to notice a positive change in him. “He came back buzzing and full of confidence gained from being away from us for so long and getting to meet a bunch of new kids. “Children with serious health conditions can feel like they always stand out and are viewed as the poor kid in the wheelchair, or the person who can’t join in with this or that. To be around other children who have also had challenges in life and met them head-on, and to be able to feel like just one of the crowd, was absolutely amazing for Daniel. He has made some really good friends he is still in touch with, and plans to meet up with them again soon.”

 “It gives them a proper childhood experience where they can just relax and have fun with new friends”

It was a holiday Catherine knows Daniel will never forget. “It was an opportunity we could never give him, and we just can’t put a price on the benefits he has gained from his time away. We’re so grateful to the charity and all the volunteers – especially Daniel’s leader, Rhys – who gave up their time to help the children make the most of everything and come home with such big smiles on their faces. “Every single day can be a battle for some children facing health problems, and this is just an amazing, fun, positive way to give them a break from the realities of their life. It gives them a proper childhood experience where they can just relax and have fun with new friends, which means so much to them.”



Daniel and his new friends packed so much into their Florida trip, including a visit to Disney World





Dreamflight: Changing children’s lives 


Dreamflight will use the money raised in The Candis Big Give to help to send 20 children with a serious illness or disability on a ten-day trip to Orlando in Florida. The money will cover all costs for the trip, including travel, food, accommodation, medical expenses, entry to theme parks, a dolphin swim and reunion parties, giving them a much-needed opportunity to have fun, build their confidence and develop lifelong friendships.

Visit dreamflight.org to find out more 


Donations to date

We never forget it’s YOUR subscriptions that enable Candis Club to give huge amounts to charities. Our running total shows how much

£31,620,386 to the Cancer and Polio Research Fund (1962 to 2002)

£4,429,597 to the National Asthma Campaign (1990 to 2002)

£5,500,979 to Marie Curie (1998 to 2012)

£3,304,767 to Macmillan Cancer Support (1993 to 2013)

£3,309,982 to Bliss, the special care baby charity (1990 to 2009)

£2,190,977 to Liverpool University’s Cancer Tissue Bank Research Centre (1989 to 1993)

£1,549,998 to the British Heart Foundation (2002 to 2008)

£914,053 to local groups via the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) (1990 to 2009)

£220,000 to ICAN (1989)

£246,876 to Tommy’s, the baby charity (2006 to 2009)

£303,774 to Children’s Hospices UK (2008 to 2010)

£2,500,000 to charities in The Candis Big Give



In 2020, Candis Club will donate at least £250,000 from members’ magazine subscription revenue to health charities taking part in The Candis Big Give. Any additional funds will go to charities at the discretion of the General Committee of Candis Club

Make a difference

We’ve highlighted some of the charities taking part in The Candis Big Give. For a full list, and details of the life-changing projects they’re raising money for, visit candis.co.uk/charity


What it does: Provides emotional, practical and physical support to breast cancer sufferers. Candis Big Give project: Money raised will help the charity to provide its breast cancer support programme. Location: National Total raised: £73,766


What it does: Helps and supports children with physical disabilities. Candis Big Give project: To buy equipment that aids limb movement. Location: Sussex Total raised: £21,247


What it does: Supports people with epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Candis Big Give project: To fund enhanced care for children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Location: London Total raised: £37,042


What it does: Fundraises for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales. Candis Big Give project: To fund facilities for the Jungle Ward. Location: Cardiff Total raised: £70,674


What it does: Supports people affected by brain tumours. Candis Big Give project: Money raised will be invested into research into brain tumours. Location: National Total raised: £100,518 


What it does: Supports children with a brain injury. Candis Big Give project: To offer activities and therapy to children. Location: Surrey Total raised: £80,048 


What it does: Provides memorable Special Days for seriously ill adults. Candis Big Give project: To offer a positive focus away from treatment. Location: National Total raised: £45,224 

How Buying a Subscription Helps – In 2020, Candis Club will donate at least £250,000 from members’ magazine subscription revenue to health charities taking part in The Candis Big Give.
Any additional funds will go tocharities at the discretion of the General Committee of Candis Club.


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