A disabled teenager from Long Ditton had her dream of swimming with dolphins come true after being flown to Florida by a wish granting charity.
Poppy Gault, 13, has an undiagnosed genetic disorder which has resulted in severe physical and learning disabilities, and has undergone numerous hospital procedures and surgeries.
Despite being unable to bear weight without splints on her legs and ankles, Poppy has loved swimming since a young age and is able to splash around without any restrictions.
Seeing her daughter’s delight in the water, Sarah Gault, 42, contacted Starlight Children’s Foundation to request a wish combining Poppy’s love of the water with her love of animals by swimming with dolphins.
The charity, which grants wishes for children and young people with serious and terminal illness, flew Poppy and her family to Orlando for a week-long holiday last month, staying at the Give Kids the World resort.
On the third day of their trip, the Gault family enjoyed a day at Discovery Cove and Poppy was able to pet and swim with the dolphins.
Mrs Gault said: “Poppy was absolutely delighted. She and the dolphin we had found they had something in common; splashing. Plus the dolphin makes some fantastic sounds that made Poppy laugh a great big belly laugh.
“We never expected that she would be able to actually swim with the dolphin, but with the help of a member of their staff she hung on to the fin and was swum across the lagoon. She loved it all.
“I was quite emotional when I saw her happiness and how she just loved the whole day at Discovery Cove.”
As part of their first ever holiday, the family also enjoyed trips to all four parks at Walt Disney World, where Poppy was able to meet her favourite characters Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore at a character dining restaurant.
Mrs Gault said: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile and laugh quite that much. I can honestly say that’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her. Not only were we completely moved to tears, but so were those around us.
“The characters’ escort said they were similarly affected and had shed some tears in their backroom as they realised what a big effect they were having on Poppy.”
After the holiday, Poppy’s sisters Phoebe, nine, and Molly, six, who attend Surbiton High Junior Girls’ School, did a presentation about Poppy’s wish and Starlight’s work and, as a result, the school chose Starlight as its nominated charity for the summer term.
To find out more about Starlight or to request a wish, visit starlight.org.uk.