Icelandair’s Special Children Travel Fund, Vildarbörn, granted fifteen children and their families a travel grant last Sunday. The fund, founded in 2003, seeks to to enable children suffering from long-term illness or special circumstances and their families to go on “an unforgettable and constructive family journey”.
Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir, managing director of the fund, told Morgunbladid that the grant consists of a trip for the sick child and its family; all costs incurred, including flights, hotels, rental car, a daily stipend and admission fees to places that the child wishes to experience, are paid for by Icelandair. According to Áslaug, the most popular destination, by far, is Disney World in Florida. All in all, 55 families, 220 individuals, have received a grant from the fund since is was founded in 2003.
One lucky child, Tómas Thór, 11, is taking his family to Disney World. His mother, Helga Steinunn Hauksdóttir, told Morgunbladid that he and his brother have never been abroad and are very excited about the idea of going to Florida. She said that the family would not be able to go on such a trip were it not for Vildarbörn. “Icelandair deserves much praise for this initiative,” said Helga.
The idea behind Vildarbörn, Icelandair’s Special Children Travel Fund, comes from of Peggy Helgason, a physiotherapist who has volunteered at the Children’s Unit of Landspítali University Hospital for over 15 years. Over the years she has worked closely with children with long term illnesses and their families. In her volunteer work she sometimes works as a clown. ” I like to show them [the children] tricks and joke around with them. I want them to forget, for a moment, that they are sick,” said Peggy. Peggy said that the children’s need was great and the sickness effected the entire family. “I meet a lot of children with long term illnesses and got the idea to get Icelandair to support the project, ” said Peggy. Peggy is the wife of Sigurdur Helgason, former CEO of Icelandair. She is sits on the board of Vildarbörn. Sigurdur is the chairman of Vildarbörn. Sigurdur told Morgunbladid that for years Icelandair had offered a few families with children suffering long term illnesses trips but in 2003 they decided to found the fund to give people an opportunity to formally apply and let the board of Vildarbörn evaluate the applications.
This year 70 families applied and 15 families received a grant.
Vildarbörn is financed by Icelandair; Icelandair customers that give their Icelandair miles; and change that Icelandair customers leave in envelopes on the airplanes.
According to Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir, managing director of the fund, the collection for Vildarbörn has greatly exceeded expectations.