2008 Families


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Registered Charity Number 1121315

Here are letters we have received from people that will be on our 2008 programme.

If you would like to sponsor a family, please go to
our fundraising page for details.

Smith-Martin / Scarlett Family from Milton Keynes UK

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Dominic aged 9 is autistic with severe communication, social and learning difficulties. He lives at home with his mother Ruth and older brother Alex aged 12. He goes to one of the few special schools in the UK for children with Autism.

Life with Dominic has it ups and downs. Lots of people ask me how I cope, being a single parent with an Autistic child, but to be honest, if that is all you know, you just get on with it and learn to take each day as it comes. Although life is hard, you learn to cope and enjoy every moment. Dominic’s behaviour can be challenging and he has poor language skills, but living with Dominic can be rewarding too, he has such a cheeky smile and loves slap stick comedy.

It is harder on his brother, as we can’t do all the things he would like to do, due to Dominic’s condition. Despite this he never complains and is feisty protective of his brother.

Dominic, like most autistic kids, loves Thomas the Tank. Trains, water play, messy play and he can run and climb for Britain. 

Having the opportunity to go and swim with the dolphins offered by Operation Sunshine, will give Dominic and his brother Alex an experience of a lifetime. I can’t thank them enough for this very special trip.


Message from Katy Adams
(A carer that will be joining us on the programme)

I have worked at the Walnuts School in Milton Keynes for just over three years. The school caters for individuals with autistic spectrum disorders and severe communication difficulties who are between 4-19 years of age. The school offers an eclectic approach and is continually striving to improve on this. The curriculum includes: The National Curriculum, National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, sensory activities, art therapy, Picture Exchange Communication System, life skills and TEACCH. The approach is designed according to individuals need. The school has recently moved to a brand new site so that it can cater for more pupils and offer 52-week residential provision where needed to maximise learning for the individual. I thoroughly enjoy working with individuals with an autistic spectrum disorders because there is always some new to learn and challenges that need creative thinking to be overcome. Additionally I have recently completed a two-year university course on Autistic Spectrum Disorders. I am really interested to see the effects of the programme and watch the children have this amazing experience.


Craig & Abby from Milton Keynes UK

Craig & Abby

My name is Craig and I am 29 years old. Back in January this year (2007) whilst depressed I wanted to end my life. I decided to climb up an electrical pylon carrying 33,000 volts as I thought this would be a quick and easy way to die. But lucky for me I survived. After lying on the side of the road for nearly 3 hours in freezing temperatures I was found and taken to the local hospital where doctors and nurses worked hard to keep me alive. I was then taken to a specialised burns unit where doctors fought hard to try and save my blackened limbs. But after all their efforts it was obvious I was going to lose them. First I had my left leg amputated below the knee and at the same time they had to remove the whole of my right arm from the shoulder. They then tried to save my right leg by taking some muscle from my left thigh with no avail.

So there I was lying in my hospital bed after having the biggest shock of my life wondering what the future would hold for me. I started to realise that although this was a tragic accident to have happened to me I was just lucky to be alive and was going to make the most of the second chance that I had been given. My family became a lot closer and I have even met someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with, who I did not know before my accident. I began to realise that my future was going to be a lot better than the past I had tried to leave behind.

I was given new prosthetic legs and told it would take me up to 2 years to walk on them properly as I had lost my balance due to losing the arm but with great determination and encouragement from staff, friends and loved ones I managed it in 6 weeks. So after 6 months of being in hospital and lots of intense physio on prosthetic legs I am now very independent in most things. I can cook meals and even walk up stairs which was something I was told that I would not be able to do.

It has now been 10 months since my accident and not a day goes by when I am not grateful for this second chance I have been given. It has opened my eyes to all the opportunities that the world has to offer. So much good has come out of what has happened to me. I have not sat and dwelled on what has happened to me as it was feared that I would fall back into depression but instead built up the determination and courage not only to help myself but also others around me. So I am going to train to become a counsellor to help others in my situation.

I believe everything happens for a reason and this could not be more true in my case. I am much happier now in myself as a person and have a completely different outlook on life.

When I heard about Operation Sunshine Family Therapy Programmes and this opportunity to swim with dolphins I was overwhelmed. Swimming with dolphins has always been a dream of mine and without the help of Operation Sunshine and their fantastic team this would have not been possible. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your love, support and prayers at a time in my life when it was most needed.

I can now look forward to the rest of my life happy and content with Abby and my family.


The Carrington Family from UK
(taken from letter received from Melanie Carrington)

Carringtons Aug 08 copy

It is 24 hours, 365 days of the year for Pete (hubby) and myself. While one of us deals with one of the children’s needs, the other deals with the other children. Obviously, Stephen needs one-to-one 24/7 because of the severity of his cerebral palsy. But he has a super personality and can melt your heart in an instance with his infectious smile and beautiful sparkly eyes. Stephen’s mobility is his power chair, which he is extremely proficient at now. We have to do his physio on a daily basis. Hence, Peter and I get up at 5.30-6am on school days to give us the time for everything. We are constantly up to him in the night also as he cannot turn over etc.

Now Hannah’s behaviour is more complex, but in a different way. Due to her autism, she takes everything in a literal manner. So a lot of careful planning ahead and explaining is necessary to help Hannah through her day. Hannah loves structure and organisation (which at home, with 4 children is sometimes impossible). I have to dress Hannah (10.5 years) feed her breakfast every morning. If the slightest routine alters, that can set her off into temper tantrums – so bless her, although totally adorable, she can be challenging.

David’s behaviour is becoming more “manageable” now the older he becomes, but again he too can be extremely demanding etc. Thankfully, school is brilliant and he is doing really well there.

Mark was our only child which up until recently didn’t seem to have “problems”. As enclosed letter explains, this has now changed.

All of this stress is rather difficult sometimes.We have never had any respite, so this marvellous opportunity for our family would be like “a dream come true”. Just to be able to do the “normal” everyday family things, will be pure heaven for Peter and I. I am afraid our marital relationship has had to be put on the back burner, as our individual attention goes to our 4 lovely children. Thank you so very much for considering us.

The Bradley Family from UK
(Taken from a letter received from Irene – mother of Alastair)

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We are so exited. Aly said it’s a dream come true. Although Aly suffers from epilepsy it is very well controlled. In fact his last major fit is well over a year ago. It is his balance that is the main problem. That is why he has a wheelchair. Aly can't balance walking so he gets around the house on his knees, but he can balance for a few steps at a time. Aly also has learning difficulties, although having said that, he is writing a book on a journey he and myself took to see a healer in Brazil - he loved it there. I HATED every minute of it! I had no one to help me with him. We can manage Al on a plane fine. I would take a rubber bath mat for the shower and also to use whilst he stands on the boat to get into the hoist, he can swim well and underwater. I've been taking him to workout at the gym twice a week - he's fit and strong. I have emergency medication that stops a fit should he have one -but I know he won't. He has never lost full control of his bodily functions anyway! Aly used to have many fits and its taken years to control them. Our life revolves around Aly because we love him so - its no hardship to us. Perhaps some might think otherwise but its what you get used to and we love him so very dearly.

We would love to go on this programme because we would be all together – abroad, sunshine, warm, water and DOLPHINS!

Al can't wait to get into the ocean to be with the Dolphins and I just KNOW he will be overjoyed and thrilled - he has a rapport with animals. Ken and I are excited too as we have never had respite before.

Message from Joseph’s Mother from UK


Joe & Sheila

Joseph is 17 years old and lives with his parents Jim and Sheila and his younger brother, Laurence.

I am Joseph's mum and naturally think he is a beautiful young person. Joe's challenges in life are chiefly related to his so-called disabilities. He is severely autistic and learning disabled. This means he has difficulties and BIG ones, with communication, social understanding, empathy and that he has some high-level sensory sensitivities. His tolerance of outside factors such as excessive or sudden noise, and other people's behaviours, particularly if they are irritated, angry or exaggerated, is limited. He is just very sensitive. I could write much about the stress and difficulties involved in caring for Joseph's needs, but that is not my focus with him and I would not wish it to be yours. Let me tell you about the fun parts.

Joseph enjoys most of all being with water in the sea, a river, swimming, the shower, the bath, the paddling pool, the sink, the hose, the water gun. Any water activity or play is bliss to him. He's an original water baby!!

He also likes lots of physical activity, walking, cycling, trampolining more walking, just getting out and about. Which is good for him and his long legs, but jolly tiring for me! He loves to be involved, and to be doing things. Ask him to help you do something that he can manage, and he rarely refuses. He's also good with art and craft, he can make quite detailed and intricate things with his hands.

As Joseph approaches his adult life and the end of his school years, I feel he deserves a special treat. Family holidays when he was little were few and had to be at the same cottage in Cornwall each time due to Joseph's need for routine and sameness. It was exhausting enough caring for Joseph with his challenging behaviour, sleeplessness and obsessions. His younger brother just having to go along with whatever Joseph's needs dictated. Eventually it became too stressful to go away as a family. Joseph's grandparents enabled Jim, Laurence and I to have a week away together last year, as we have not been able to afford the overnight respite. 

The fabulous opportunity offered by Operation Sunshine, (bless their hearts!!), will give Joseph an experience of a sunny, carefree week and the chance for a dream come true. The gift of communing with the dolphins of Bimini for a child whose greatest difficulty is with communication is really a great blessing. To be with these gentle, intelligent, uplifting, generous creatures in a safe, calm environment will give Joseph a rare opportunity of fun, freedom and delight. We are SO looking forward to the company of the other families, the workers of Operation Sunshine, the folks on Bimini and those gorgeous dolphins!!!

It would not be possible for me to travel long-distance with and manage Joe without help, so we are thankful that Washington, who works with Joe at his school, has agreed to come along as support and help. Bless him!!


The Stocktons from the UK


Finley is 2 years old and severely disabled, he is unable to sit, stand, walk, talk or crawl, however he smiles, laughs, giggles and rolls from side to side and he is now gaining much better head control. The day we found out Finley had difficulties I had two choices, go with it and allow myself to be a much more positive person or, stay miserable and unresourcfull, which of course would not have benefited Finley or the rest of the family. I decided to take a whole new different path and this path is amazing, Finley has changed me so much and I actually feel happier than ever before. I first heard about Operation Sunshine about 18 months ago and I contacted Jackie for a chat, I realised after our chat that the opportunities she offers families to spend some essential quality time together as well as the opportunity to swim with dolphins was just fantastic, and Jackie has also helped me over the last 18 months gain even more strength to achieve my outcomes. I now run a charity called The Echoes Foundation and I aim to open a multi purpose dedicated therapy centre for all children in Hull and Yorkshire with special and additional needs. I currently offer parental support and coaching, I have just completed the NLP Practitoners course. www.echoesfoundation.co.uk I still work one day a week at the Spire hospital in Leeds within the operating department as a Senior Operating Dept Practitioner, and I also work one shift a week on the labour ward at Hull Royal of which the money is donated to Echoes. As Finley is still very young Jackie has given me the amazing opportunity to spend some much needed quality time with my daughter Lauryn with some wonderful families in Bimini. Siblings are greatly affected when there is a child in the family with special needs and I cant wait for us to share some fantastic memories together. I hope I can offer support to the other families and I am looking forward greatly to meeting everyone, with love and dolphin joy to everyone.

Claire and Lauryn

Ryan McGahey from Canada

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Ryan is a beautiful, but challenging 11 year old boy, who suffers with autism. He is the younger of two boys in our family. He was a typical, happy little baby, hitting his developmental milestones right on time….until about 15 months old. He very gradually started to lose interest in us, or toys, and his eye contact very slowly disappeared. We used to joke about what a little snob he had become, little did we know. It was when Ryan didn’t start to talk that we became concerned. We took him for testing, hoping they would tell us it was all in our heads, but deep down, knowing what we were going to hear…. Ryan had PDD-NOS (a milder form of autism). We instantly started researching everything we could get our hands on. We tried special diets, vitamin therapy, IBI therapy, speech, and occupational therapy. Unfortunately, Ryan was quite severe, and by the time he reached 5 years old, they changed his diagnosis to Autism. We have been through so many stages with Rye, most of them very challenging.

Ryan is non verbal and so he is frustrated constantly, which causes him to hit himself, or pinch his own skin, and scream at the same time. He wants to snack constantly, so he is always tugging us to the kitchen for chips or soup or a drink. He has under active taste buds, so he will bite on a bar of soap, or laundry detergent, or even a leaf. So we can never take our eyes off him. He doesn’t like to hear “no”, so that is a guaranteed 15 minute tantrum. Ryan has very poor motor skills, so he has never developed an interest in toys, or puzzles, so he spends most of his time whipping items in the house with a long sock or tee towel. He is bored, frustrated, and grumpy quite often. BUT….he likes to get out of the house to visit family, he likes to go for drives, and his passion is swimming. We have a pool in the back yard and that is where he spends his days in the summer, with a huge grin on his face. He actually looks like an Otter when he swims. It’s like he and the water are one. Unfortunately we live in Canada, so he doesn’t get out as much in the winter. We try to take him public swimming as much as possible. We spend a week every summer at the cottage and he literally spends the first day in the lake. We can’t even coax him out with food!

Lucky for us and him, he has an amazing older brother, Alex. He has never complained when he is usually last on the priority list, while his brother is having a tantrum. He has no ill feelings towards his baby brother, instead he still plays chase with him and kisses him, even though he is now hitting his teens and image is everything. 

Ever since the day he was diagnosed with autism, his dad has said, “One day, I’m taking Rye to swim with the dolphins”. I don’t think either one of us ever thought that day would come. We are so excited and grateful to be a part of this group. Even though he doesn’t understand where he is going, we know it will be one of the most joyous occasions of Ryan’s life!

With all this said, he is the heart and soul of our family and we love him like you can not believe.

He’s “The Autistic Wonder of the World”.


How will the Operation Sunshine Programme make a difference to their situation?

  • It will give the parents respite in a supportive and caring environment
  • It will enable the whole family to benefit from the activities on the programme, to relax the body, relieve tensions, release of emotions, frustration, loss, fear and anger.
  • The programme will stimulate the mind, aid concentration and increase learning ability.
  • An enhanced feeling of well-being and to gain the confidence to embrace the future.
  • The programme will enable participants to take part in activities not normally possible, increase self-esteem, helping them to express themselves and control disruptive behaviour.




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