'You can see how much it means for them to be here'
FOR volunteer Melanie Bishop all the hard work of pushing wheelchairs and carrying bags is worth it when she sees just one moment of joy on the faces of poorly children on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Florida.
Melanie, a 61-year-old from Madeley, is one of many helpers who are assisting the families on Caudwell Children's Destination Dreams trip to Orlando.
Twenty-two families with children with life-threatening illnesses have been visiting Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld.
In her role as volunteer, Melanie, a psychological therapist in cancer services at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, helps out in any way she can.
She said: "This has been my first Destination Dreams trip and it's been amazing. As volunteers we get assigned to different families throughout the week and they've all been wonderful.
"A lot of the families would never have contemplated a trip like this on their own as it's far too risky.
"As a volunteer I'm there to push a wheelchair or look after their bags while they all enjoy the rides. Sometimes you're just there to listen to their story as they get things off their chest.
"It's a very rewarding and it makes me smile while I see how much the children are enjoying it, or how much it means to mum and dad when they can just have time to hold hands."
Volunteer Phil Ormond, a 53-year-old from Longsdon, is on his third Destination Dreams trip.
Phil, whose partner Lisa Brian works as Caudwell Children's marketing and events manager and is also on the trip, said: "As Lisa works for the charity we eat, sleep and breathe Caudwell Children.
"Down the line I'd love to be able to take a month out and volunteer at Give Kids The World, the special resort where the families stay, because it's an incredible place."
Lucy Goode, a 21-year-old from Stone, works as a coordinator for youth projects for the British Red Cross. She said: "I've done voluntary work before but never anything like this. I like to think that as a volunteer it gives the parents a chance to be 'hands free' for a day."
All the volunteers are required to undertake some fund-raising for their place on the trip.
Sara Coates, a 43-year-old, from Leek, raised more than the £1,200 minimum required.
Sara, who works as a senior pharmacy technician for Combined Healthcare, said: "I've done a lot of fund-raising before for other causes, but Destination Dreams gives me a chance to give my time as well as the money. It's been a very humble and emotional experience."
Volunteer Jackie Livesley, a 56-year-old from Trentham, is on her first Destination Dreams trip.
She said: "This week is all about the families and helping them to create some very special memories. You can see how much it means to them to be on the trip."
The families include the Lockers, from Fenton, who have twins with health problems. Seven-year-olds Haydn and Katie are on the trip with mum Sally, dad Lee and siblings, 14-year-old Chloe and 18-year-old Hannah. Also on the trip is three-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer Lexi-Jean Thwaits, from Biddulph Moor. She is joined by her mum Tilly and gran Petra.
To find out more about being a volunteer, call the charity on 0845 300 1348. People can also donate at www.justgiving.com/caudwellgiving or text GIVE52 £5 to 70070.