Little girl with tragic illness enjoys dream trip to Florida

Grace Hitchens kisses a dolphin in Florida.

Little Grace Hitchens meets Rapunzel.

Little Grace Hitchens back from Florida Disney Holiday.

Carl, Fiona Hitchens with daughters Emily (L) and Grace swimming with dolphins in Florida.

First published in News

A little girl from Bingley with a tragic illness is safely back from dream trip to Florida where she swam with dolphins and was kissed by a Disney princess.

Grace Hitchens, aged nine, has Niemann Pick Type C - a condition which eats away at the brain's control of body functions - and which took the life of her elder brother Harry in 2010 when he was seven.

But she and her twin sister Emily, together with parents Carl and Fiona, have just enjoyed a thrill-packed three weeks in Florida - thanks to the generosity of local people.

They hoped to raise £12,000 to pay for the trip and a specialist bike - but have now topped £35,000 in donations to online site "Grace's Wish."

Mum Fiona said the extra money would be passed straight to a charity which helps children with Niemann Pick and they would continue to fundraise for other families.

"People have been so kind and generous - it gave all of us, and especially Grace, the most amazing experience," Mrs Hitchens said.

"It was an escape in every way.

"We flew to Orlando and stayed at the Disney resort where everything, the hotel, the colours, the gardens were just out of this world.

"We needed a break from reality and it seems to have changed us as a family, made us stronger because we spent so much time doing things together," said Mrs Hitchens, at their home in Eldwick.

"Grace got really excited in the countdown to going," said precision tool maker Mr Hitchens, 47.

"She knew what was going on, that we were going in a plane and was quite giddy about it.

"Family and friends gave us a big send off and we flew out to Orlando without any problems.

"Then it was two full-on weeks at Disney with every day full of rides and things to do before heading to the Gulf Coast for a relaxing week at the beach."

"But the best part of the whole trip was when we went to Disney's Discovery Cove, three man-made lagoons where you can swim with dolphins.

"It was just brilliant and Grace loved it. They asked if she wanted to swim with a dolphin and she just grabbed one's tail and hung on!

"It was an extremely emotional moment," Mr Hitchens said.

"By the time the holiday was ending Grace was so relaxed and happy she was just looking round, smiling and bursting into laughter.

"We all were."

Both Grace and Emily go to St Joseph's primary school, Bingley and Emily said they had an unbeatable time.

"The dolphins were best, but the rides like Escape to Everest were amazing and Grace went on some too - she got really wet on the Curly Rapids!

But I think she most enjoyed meeting all the Disney Princesses - especially Rapunzel who gave her a big lipstick kiss!" Emily said.

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