A convoy of cabs left the East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf early on the morning of 12th September, destination Disneyland Paris. The 21st annual Children’s Magical Taxi Tour had begun – with lots of excited children (and cab drivers) gathering for the Big Breakfast Send Off.
This breakfast was attended by sponsors and dignitaries alongside the VIP guests – the children – with The Lord Mayor Locum Tenens of the City of London Alderman Sir David Howard cutting the ribbon at 07:40 sharp signalling the beginning of the trip.
Office workers at the venue were surprised at the sight which greeted them and stood to watch in amazement as the convoy set off, horns blaring to bid farewell, each cab with the sponsors names emblazoned on the side.
More than 400 people set off on this year’s trip, taking children with life limiting illnesses on such a magical journey. As well as the children, the Magical Taxi Tour was supported by medical teams, ambulances, breakdown services and carers. The trip, organised by The Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, was escorted by police officers from the City of London Police, UK and also fellow officers from over the channel, the Gendarmerie Nationale. The Big Breakfast Send Off saw the Royal British Legion Band from Romford entertain everybody and the charity is grateful for the support from the Marriot Hotel Canary Wharf for the provision of packed lunches, the London Taxi Company for the spending money for the children and Ampersand for the breakfast itself.
Each year the tour reaches another milestone; more than 4800 children have been on this trip over the course of its 21 year history. It is thanks to the generosity of sponsors and the taxi drivers who give their time freely that the trip has grown and gone from strength to strength, together with support of the Livery Companies and the corporate sector. Some of the taxi drivers have actually taken part in every single trip since the first one in 1994, an amazing commitment.
They are used to the cries of “Are we nearly there yet” that begin as the convoy lands in Calais following crossing the channel on a P&O ferry. The ferry trips are also donated kindly by P&O. The car deck full of London taxis is quite a surprising sight to fellow travellers, as is the hotel car park full of cabs over the weekend. This year the convoy enjoyed a lovely sunny day for the journey down to Disneyland and many were on the outside decks of the ferry.
A refuelling stop at the Aire De Repos Assevillers Ouest services saw quite a sight to greet the convoy. Giant characters were waving, a room had been set aside especially for the guests of the convoy where the children found snacks, sweets and drinks waiting for them. Face painters were also on hand and it was somewhat hard to persuade the children to get back to their cabs when it was time to leave as they were enjoying a good time. Then it was onwards to our final destination. Although we were a bit delayed by traffic queues, we arrived at the Disneyland resort in daylight, giving the children their first glimpse of the enchanted kingdom in the distance. As the taxis arrived at the Cheyenne hotel – cowboy themed and decorated – some of the Disney characters were waiting to greet the children and this was greeted by lots of happy faces. Having checked in to the hotel, dinner was in the Chuck Wagon. Drivers took the chance to relax and enjoy the evening before the visit to the theme park the next day. Bright and early on Saturday, everyone headed into the Park itself. With so many rides and things to experience in the park this is a fun packed day which this year was enjoyed in beautiful sunshine.
Behind the scenes, the team from the charity are always working to ensure the children have a great time. As the children and drivers enjoyed their time in the park, others were preparing packed lunches for the return journey, with sandwiches donated by M&S.
This fun packed day is followed by a Gala Dinner, which is also attended by the Disney characters who sign autographs and pose for photos with the children – truly magical. During the evening the party atmosphere continued with a disco. All too soon the evening was over and it was time for bed before the journey homewards. First thing on Sunday as drivers packed the cabs with their guests’ luggage, the police – both English and French – were showing the children their cars and motorbikes and the hotel car park became a very noisy place to be with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing. The convoy then departed for Calais. A quick refuel stop, then onto another P&O ferry for the return to the UK.
Fund raising in today’s economic climate is more difficult than it has been in the past and without the continuing support of the drivers, City Liveries and the Magical Taxi Tour sponsors this event could not carry on. New sponsors come on board each year as they learn more about the trip and how much pleasure it brings. Fund raising events are held, such as the Dinner Dance held each December and those involved in the charity this year have done some different things to raise funds, including the Three Peaks Challenge and some ice bucket challenges. The Disney Organising Committee is confident it will be able to carry on bringing smiles to the faces of the children and the supporting team who travel. The Committee is extremely grateful to everyone involved in making this year’s trip so successful; every bit of help and support counts in making this the trip of a lifetime for the children. Each year the preparation for the trip sees goodie bags filled, the cabs liveried with their sponsors names, meetings with P&O, lots of telephone calls, vehicles lent to the trip as support, food ordered, a briefing meeting, to name but a few. It is this preparation which results in a trip which looks seamless and shows the generosity of the cab trade, as with so many of our trade charities. Long may it continue.
Next year’s trip will take place on 18th September and fund raising has already begun…….