A young boy whose mother died at Christmas will see his dream become reality when he is flown to the UAE capital for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next month.
UK-based Jacob Newson, 8, who wants to be a pilot when he grows up, has raised almost £100,000 (Dh498,023) for UK-based charities in memory of his mother, Andrea, who died of breast cancer on December 27.
He climbed the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and the Yorkshire Three Peaks with his father to raise the funds.
The trip came about after an old friend of Jacob’s mother, Donna Coulston-Smith, contacted Etihad to arrange a treat to reward him for his fund-raising efforts and take his mind off the anniversary of his mother's death.
The airline sent a tweet to Jacob’s Twitter account, Jacob The Pilot, earlier this week to make the offer.
His father, Andy, said he was in tears when he read it.
“Donna mentioned to me quite a while ago that she had been contacting Etihad and Yas Marina to try and get Jacob as a treat to come out to the Grand Prix,” he said.
“I didn’t say anything to Jacob, because I thought it was a bit optimistic to try.”
But it finally all came together this week, when Etihad, a main sponsor of the Grand Prix, arranged the all-expenses-paid trip for Jacob and his father.
“Etihad tweeted they were going to fly us out to Abu Dhabi, which is amazing,” he said.
“He was really excited when I told him. He’s a really happy lad. He loves the treats he gets. When I showed him a clip on YouTube he was really excited about it.”
Jacob, an only child, was very close to his mother and losing her was extremely tough for him, said Mr Newson.
“She was an amazing woman. But more so, an amazing mother for Jacob. She had two life goals. One was a family and one was to get married. We got married three months before she passed away.
“She was just so incredibly kind, understanding and so patient with Jacob.
“She always managed him in such a perfect way,” said Mr Newson.
Jacob is surrounded by reminders of his mother and his fund-raising, which the family began around the time of her diagnosis in 2019, has helped.
He collected £55,000 for the hospice involved in his mother's care, as well as about £45,000 for the Royal Air Force (RAF) Benevolent Fund, which helps serving and former members of the RAF, their partners and children.
The trip will come just days before the first anniversary of her death.
“I don’t know exactly what to expect at this stage but I am sure it will be an absolutely fantastic trip, which Jacob will love,” said Mr Newson.
“It will be a great distraction and a chance to make more amazing memories.”
The trip includes an experience in a flight simulator — one of Jacob’s dreams.
Ms Coulston-Smith, who contacted Etihad to arrange the trip, said she was “overwhelmed” by the airline's generosity.
“I’m an old friend of Jacob's mother so have followed his story and always knew his love of the air force and planes, which was something they really focused on to help them through very difficult times,” she said.
“I decided to help because a lot of the family bucket list to do before Andrea passed away was put on hold due to corona so I wanted to help him make special memories for him still.
“Living in a place that comes alive for the F1, my initial plan was for him to see our amazing flyover and maybe find a way to get him behind the scenes of our national carrier.”
Capt Jihad Matta, head of crew performance and support at Etihad Airways, said when the team heard about Jacob’s passion for aviation and incredible fund-raising efforts, they wanted to do something special for him.
“Etihad decided to surprise Jacob and his father with a trip to Abu Dhabi during the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this December,” he said.
“The national airline also hopes to give him a flying lesson in one of our training simulators where pilots from all over the world come to train. His story has touched the hearts of the Etihad family and we’re looking forward to meeting Jacob — a little boy who loves flying as much as we do.”