Dream comes true for ill children at air show

For six children with life-threatening illnesses, a visit to the Al Ain air show yesterday was a dream come true.

AL AIN // For six children with life-threatening illnesses, a visit to the Al Ain air show yesterday was a dream come true. Meeting the wheelchair-bound pilots of the We Fly aerobatic team was a bonus. For the children, five Emiratis and one Nigerian, aged four to 14, the day was a welcome respite from Tawam Hospital, where they are being treated for leukaemia and thalassaemia, among other ailments.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation gave the children the opportunity to visit the air show, and as a special treat, they were allowed to enter the restricted area where they met the disabled pilots of the Italian aerobatic team. Alessandro Paleri, 37, Marco Cherubini, 36, and Erich Kustatscher, 60, fly modified Texan planes propeller-driven aircraft. They formed at the request of the Italian Federation of Disabled Pilots in 2005.

The children, who arrived in the early afternoon to watch the aerobatic displays, were full of questions for the pilots, and were able to get some answers via a translator. "How do you get into the airplane?" asked Hamed al Maamari, aged 10. Mr Paleri told him: "With our arms we pull ourselves up on to the wing, then pull ourselves up into the cockpit." Ali Lal Mohammed, 14, asked Mr Cherubini why he decided to be a pilot.

"You don't choose the sky," he said. "The sky chooses you. I wanted to fly because I think the sky is beautiful and from up there you can see everything." The children were given We Fly stickers and lapel pins, and the pilots signed autographs. When the pilots tried to take the children on to the tarmac for photos with the aeroplanes, security bristled. Undeterred, team assistants pushed the aircraft to the children, instead.

"Each year we try to do something special for the community," said Fasahat Beg, 52, the general manager of Al Ain Mineral Water. "We were pleased to invite these young boys and girls and are proud to be a part of making children's dreams come true." The goal of Make-A-Wish UAE is to brighten the lives of all children with life-threatening illnesses, said Rita Baines, who is on the board of directors.

"Make-A-Wish aims to provide joy and fulfil dreams to those who may not witness tomorrow," Ms Baines said. "We believe that by doing so, we are enriching the lives of children. It was the wish of the children who came today to see the air show and meet the pilots and we were happy to have seen them do that." The aerobatic show ends tomorrow. ealghalib@thenational.ae