Seriously ill or disabled children have told of growing in confidence and changing as people on a holiday of a lifetime in Florida.
The 191 young people from around the UK, many of whom had never been abroad or been away from their families, were flown on a free trip to Orlando by charity Dreamflight.
They have visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Universal Studios and waterpark Typhoon Lagoon to ride rollercoasters and water slides and meet Disney characters.
On their penultimate trip at SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove on Sunday, they got the chance to swim with dolphins.
Some youngsters were lifted from their wheelchairs and into the water to get close to the dolphins before watching them do tricks.
Holly Hall, 11, from Woodbridge in East Suffolk, told the PA news agency: “This has been my favourite day, ever since I found out I was going on this trip I’ve been really excited for it.
“It’s all been so surreal, we’ve done so many things that people wouldn’t normally get to do.
“Because everybody here has been in hospital it always felt like we were always having less and now it’s like we get so much more, it’s really amazing.”
Grace Pinches, 14, from Bridgend, Wales, said: “At first I found the dolphins scary because it felt really weird, but afterwards it was fun.
“This trip has brought a lot of confidence out of people, it’s really helped everyone grow and make new friends, not just judge people by their looks.
“We’ve got to know people for who they are and that has been really nice.”
Leo Jewell, 13, from Poole in Dorset, said: “Swimming with the dolphins was an amazing first experience, I wish I could do it again, if I could I would do it every day.
“It was awesome watching them do tricks, I’d love to be a dolphin trainer.
“I think it’s an amazing experience, it’s the best place you can go, it really is a dream flight.
“I think it’s changed me as a person, I’m so much more social, I wouldn’t really speak much before, I’ll go back home to my parents as a new person, completely different.”
The children were picked to join the holiday after living with serious illness, disability or trauma.
Dreamflight has taken more than 6,000 children on the annual trip since 1987.
This is the 35th holiday put on by the charity, costing more than £1 million.
They were waved off on the trip by celebrity couple Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan at Heathrow Airport last weekend.