By Amy Batista, Special Writer
EWING – He’s got sunshine, on a cloudy day. And when it’s cold outside, he’s got the month of May.
With apologies to the Temptations, Sgt. Benjamin L. Miller of the Hightstown Borough Police Department and his law enforcement colleagues sure can deliver some sunshine in May.
Sgt. Miller was one of the officers who participated in the Sunshine Foundation’s 95th annual “Operation Dreamlift” last week. The event is designed to answer the dreams of chronically ill, seriously ill, physically challenged and abused children ages 3 to 18, whose families cannot fulfill their requests due to financial strain that the child’s illness may cause.
“This event was celebrated by local law enforcement officers throughout Mercer County, sheriff departments, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, New Jersey State Police, federal law enforcement agencies, and military partners,” said Hightstown Borough Police Department Chief of Police Frank Gendron in a press release. “They serve as an honor guard for the departure of the airplane, and assist the children into the plane.”
Sgt. Miller has participated in the event for seven years, and had the honor this year of taking a 15-year-old student from East Windsor Township to the event.
The Mercer County All Volunteer Chapter of the Sunshine Foundation flew 86 children to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the day on May 3, according to the foundation’s Facebook page.
“Operation Dreamlift” is a one-day excursion to Disney or other Orlando theme parks. Sunshine charters a plane and takes groups of about 100 special needs children to spend the day at Disney. Many of the children they are having two dreams fulfilled: their first time flying and a day at one of Orlando’s theme parks, according to its website.
Every child boards the plane in his/her hometown. Volunteers come out to lift the children on the plane and share in the excitement, according to the foundation website.
Since Sunshine Foundation started its Dreamlift program, more than 99 chartered planes have taken more than 5,000 children to Florida from cities across the United States. This program gives groups of chronically ill, physically challenged and abused children that special day in their favorite place, Universal Studios or Disney World.
“It was a privilege to honor these amazing children and to celebrate their abilities,” said Sgt. Miller. “Events like Operation Dreamlift are the little reminders we in law enforcement give to ourselves on why we entered into law enforcement and an example of the good police officers do on a daily basis.”
He said it is always fun to stand with brother and sister officers in making a difference in a child’s life and bringing a smile to their faces.
East Windsor Township Police Department Detective Joseph Gorski said that this year’s participants from East Windsor were himself, Patrol Officer David Berez and Patrol Officer Scott Brown.
“Our department became involved in the event at the request of the Sunshine Foundation,” said Det. Gorski in an email on Monday. He said that the East Windsor Police Department has been participating in Dreamlift for more than 25 years.
“The day is special as it provides children who are chronically ill or physically challenged an opportunity to enjoy a day at Disney World,” said Det. Gorski. “The opportunity provided to these children is made possible by the generous donations of corporations, schools and individuals in Mercer County.”
He said that seeing the joy on the faces of those attending the Dreamlift is something that will remain with him for a lifetime. “The support of the community is overwhelming, so many coming together to show support for these children who if not for the Sunshine Foundation would not have the opportunity to visit Disney World,” he said. “It’s a humbling experience and being a very small part of the event is something I truly cherish.”
For more information on the dreamlift or dream programs, visit www.sunshinefoundation.org.
EWING: Law enforcement steps up for ‘Operation Dreamlift’
By Amy Batista, Special Writer