For sixteen-year-old Ben, from Calne in Wiltshire, Christmas has always been the most magical time of the year.
Ben has microcephaly. His brain hasn’t developed properly, so he has severe learning difficulties and limited speech, but this hasn’t stopped him learning to communicate with his family through signing and always talking about how much he’d love to meet Father Christmas!
In 2012, Ben’s family noticed his behaviour was changing, and after going to A&E were told that he had dilated cardio myopathy, a virus which was attacking Ben’s heart and causing it to fail.
After two and a half months in hospital, Ben’s family were told he needed a heart transplant and he was put on the urgent transplant list. A few weeks later, he underwent a seven-hour heart transplant operation, and came home after 21 days.
Thankfully, four years on from his transplant, Ben is now well, but still makes regular visits to Great Ormond Street every three months. It was during one of these visits where one of Ben’s favourite doctors suggested applying for a wish – so his family got in touch!
As Ben loves Father Christmas so much, he chose a very special wish - to go to Lapland and meet Father Christmas himself!
So in December 2016, Ben’s wish came true!
Along with his mum Kerry and Stepdad Gordon, Ben travelled to Lapland and enjoyed all things Christmassy for three whole days!
Even before they arrived, the air crew on the flight were dressed as elves, and sang Christmas songs with all the children on board.
On the first day, they drew pictures in the snow and went tobogganing down the ski slope, with the beautiful northern lights shining in the sky above.
The next day, Ben went to visit Father Christmas’ post office. Some of his elves were there and they read out letters from the children to Father Christmas.
The cheeky elves popped up all over the place, and one in particular, Tricky Dicky, was one of Ben’s favourite things about the trip, making him laugh by pinching his chips and playing jokes on everyone!
Ben also met and learnt about huskies, went on a magical reindeer ride through the woods at sunset, visited the Enchanted Forest, and the elves’ workshop.
And of course, no trip to Lapland would be complete without a hunt for Father Christmas himself!
Ben and his family went into a big log cabin and spoke to one of the elves. All of a sudden, a bookcase moved, and Ben went down a secret tunnel where he found Father Christmas at the end!
He ran over and just cuddled him, and they sat chatting about his time in the snow and what he had been up to in Lapland. Father Christmas gave Ben a snow globe, and Ben showed him a letter that he had written to him.
After lots of sledging and a huge snowball fight with all the elves, on the way back to the airport Ben got a last glimpse of Father Christmas and Mrs Claus stood in the middle of the forest. It was the most amazing end to the holiday.
Ben’s Mum Kerry said, “This wish has had a huge impact on Ben. He remembers certain things in a very detailed way, and even though he can hardly count to five, he can talk about his wish trip to Lapland in detail. He goes back through his photo album of the holiday and it gives us all such happy memories.”
“It was completely amazing. Just seeing Ben’s face and seeing how happy it made him. As a Mum, it completely melted my heart. Thank you isn’t enough, it was a priceless gift.”
Every year on his ‘heart day’, Ben and his family now hold a fundraising event for Make-A-Wish and all the other charities that have helped them.
Thank you to Canterbury Travel for helping to grant magical Lapland wishes.