Ivy and Noah


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Flying High.

Imagine this;

Seven kids and their parents arriving at the airport (two of whom have no idea what is about to occur).

We are greeted by a lady dressed in red, with a huge smile and sparkling blue eyes.

She opens up a gate and we move towards a check-in point that has been reserved just for today.

There are four Captains

and they are warm and friendly.

Familiar faces from our Starlight family are here too

and we talk and laugh

and forget that Ivy was only formally discharged from the hospital twenty-four hours beforehand.

We are given boarding passes and walk through to the other side of the departures lounge.

This is a first for our family.

David and I have experienced this rush of excitement before

but none of the kids have.


The big kids look nervous

and the two littlies are curious.

“Where are we going?”

“What are we doing?” they ask over and over again.

David and I smile and tell them we can’t ruin the surprise -

which is a joy flight around Sydney with Virgin Australia, who are celebrating their 100th 737 into the airport

and have donated this to Starlight as major sponsors of their 25th year in Australia helping sick children.

Noah guesses wildly and correctly

and is totally and irreversibly over stimulated as a result.

He fidgets and talks loudly to anyone who will listen.

The excitement he is feeling is almost palpable.

Ivy, who has been sitting on her father’s shoulders, quietly asks if this is all true -

if we are indeed going to board a plane.

We tell her yes and hand her the boarding passes to look over.

Her eyes crinkle at the sides as a smile explodes onto her little face

and I feel such joy being there to experience this first with them.

In all honesty, due to the number of us, the risk of Ivy’s illness and the financial strain that comes with having a medically fragile child

this will probably be the only time that our children will travel by air

until they are adults and can go without us.

For our family, this is an amazing opportunity and we are thankful for it.

We walk along the corridor after security has x-rayed everything – including beloved soft toys, which causes the small girl to comment

on the possible radiation poisoning of her chicken.

It makes me chuckle.

Ivy and the Captains sit on the travelator as Noah weaves his way in and out of the sea of people

and the rest of us try to keep up.

All of the Captains are amazing but one has taken Noah under his wing and looks after him well

and I feel as though the boy has found his people as he sits amongst the purple and yellow.

Games are played along the way and arm painting is done


as we check through security and make our way to gate 41 for photos.

Soon we find ourselves ¬†down the long felted walkway (air bridge, David tells me – it’s an air bridge. What do I know? I am almost as naive as the kids when it comes to flying)

to board the plane.

Ivy wants to experience everything.


She and her trusty chicken Bok-Bok hand over our boarding passes

and she has the metal detector swept over her.

We are met at the door by a stewardess who smiles and welcomes Ivy to the flight.

The small girl beams as our hostess kneels down to her level to take her ticket.

As we walk away Ivy comments that she is the most beautiful lady she has ever met.

Oh. I wish I could have the ability to record every minute -

every second.

I try to cover as much as I can with photos and hope I can commit the rest to memory.

We are seated in the seventh and eighth rows.

Our family of nine all together.

Ivy checks everything out.

The lights, the air conditioning, the in flight magazine

and then she reads the emergency instructions from cover to cover, noting that the life jackets are under the seat and where all of the exits are.

I think to myself that she is probably the only child to do this.

Meticulous is she in her safety needs.

It makes me smile to myself.

We are welcomed to the flight and as the 737 pushes back from the air bridge

my heart starts that familiar quicken it gets when there is something new happening

and I can see the other kids’ eyes wide and unsure as we start our journey along the runway

as Ivy babbles next to me excitedly.

She is still coming to terms with the fact that we are actually going to take off -

she had thought we were merely going to sit inside the plane’s cabin for a while.

That would have been more than her wildest dreams come true

but this -

this is amazing and wonderful and every happy thought all wrapped into one

and I can see that it is the same for Noah too, who is peering out of the window, barely moving in his seat -

the excited, messy boy of the airport long gone

and the fully concentrating, questioning boy, now full of wonder.

We hear the engines move into full throttle

and suddenly we are moving, speeding along the runway.

The moment that the aircraft leaves the ground is magical.

I am recording Ivy’s response for a journalist,

so my senses are honed into the girl.

I will never forget it.

A small squeal of delight escapes her mouth – her smile is enormous.

A full toothy grin.

It’s beautiful.

I can hear the other kids around me whoop and clap along with the rest of the passengers on board

and our two hour flight has begun.

We are released from the confines of our seatbelts and the small girl, who has given up her window seat to Maddy, through fear,

clambers onto her sister’s lap and peers down as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House come into view.

I am presented with an award – a lovely surprise

but I can’t think of it as just mine.

To me it will always be Ivy’s too (ours).

Media interview and film us in a flurry of fluffy microphones and wide lensed cameras.

It is lovely that they want to support Starlight by running with this story.

We are given lunches wrapped in ribbon

and I let Ivy eat normal ice cream despite the aftermath that will come of it.

She is in heaven.

The Collective (an Australian boy band that my big girls tell me are “hot”) sing in the aisle

and before we know it, we have started the descent back to the airport.

Ivy and Noah are invited into the cockpit and final farewells are made with the big hearted Virgin crew -

new friends found

and our Starlight family.

Our adopted Captain asks for and receives Ivy’s autograph up his arm, in black permanent marker.

Everyone is quiet as we travel back to our bus.

Taking in, remembering all the little things

but Immy coins it up well when she comments that it is a day

that none of us will ever forget.

Channel 7′s Today Tonight coverage is linked here. (includes the footage of Ivy at take off). I love this so much.

News.com.au’s Debra Killalea wrote a beautiful piece here. All of the journalists were lovely but she was so easy to talk to

and the Daily Telegraph’s coverage is here.

Thank you Starlight and Virgin Australia for giving us  valuable time together and memories to treasure. We will be forever thankful.



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32 Responses to “Flying High.”

  • KJ:

    My eyes are dribbling all over the keyboard. beautiful. x

  • Super Sarah:

    What a beautiful recap, it made me smile and then cry. Seriously. Just such a lovely story. Love you, and your beautiful girl! xx

  • Wendy S (9 comments.):

    What a wonderful surprise for the kids! The Today tonight footage was wonderful.
    It’s wonderful that Starlight include all of your family too.

    (I hope the people that control the medicine Ivy needs watch that and can see the amazing change in Ivy that is so noticeable with seeing her Ballerina footage against now.)

  • Skyring (1 comments.):

    What a fabulous story! Those photographs of smiling people – big and little – having a fantastic time are priceless. So many sunny smiles. So many memories that will be cherished.

    Thanks for making my day!

  • Josefa @always Josefa (1 comments.):

    What a truly beautiful moment. It is times like these that renew your faith in humanity. So happy that Ivy and your family were able to experience such a precious day together x

  • Danielle (4 comments.):

    A day of celebrations .. What a wonderful thing.. Not just for you and Ivy but for your whole family..
    I love how starlight encompass that.. Creating memories that last for lifetimes. Ivy, you princess are a Starlight. Your smile your character is tenacious.
    Tiffany as I wipe the tears of knowing how this must have felt .. I’m so happy for you ..
    Thank you for sharing this joy .. This starlight amongst the dark and stormy days they call life …

  • Emily:

    Incredible! I’m so glad your family was able to enjoy this day with each other. Your recap had me smiling with tears in my eyes- thanks for continuing to share the ups and downs of your journey with us.

  • Mum:

    How absolutely wonderful for everyone! :-)

    Unforgettable memories to be cherished forever! <3

    Bravo! Starlight Foundation captains, captain & crew of Virgin Australia for providing such a joyful magical mystical experience.

    :-) :-) <3 xoxo

  • Sue Cooke:

    This was the most wonderful, fantabulous, awesome thing I’ve heard in such a long time. It makes me want to cry, laugh, sing & dance. I feel so good for having read it in wonderment!!!

  • beth (1 comments.):

    This is almost not safe for work as it’s making me sniffle at my desk – how a-m-a-z-i-n-g :)

  • Trish (588 comments.):

    How magical.

  • Debbie (2 comments.):

    I’m so moved ,every time I read your posts I feel like I’m a part of your lives ,maybe because I also have a lot of kids and feel a kindred spirit ! What a beautiful day thank you so much for sharing ,you are in my prayers !

  • river (194 comments.):

    I smiled so wide when I saw this last night. I shouted, It’s Tiff and Ivy! even though there is no one here to shout to.

  • Glowless (53 comments.):

    How amazing! Watching her at takeoff was so beautiful – pure joy!!! x

  • Amy:

    Awesome. xx

  • AmyS (2 comments.):

    Oh mylanta… my face seems to have sprung a leak. What a beautiful moment – thank you so much for always sharing your adventures with us, the good and the bad. I’m so tickled that your entire family got to make such a fabulous memory together.

  • Tash:

    “Bok bok” I love it. Cryin happy tears for your family and that special girl, Ivy. Sending love.

  • Jan:

    You all deserve treats like this so much – very glad Ivy was well enough to enjoy this.

  • Marylin (26 comments.):

    Happy happy tears reading this! All our love xx

  • BW aka Barbara from Boston:

    Tiff Thanks so much for sharing this. How lovely. My favorite picture was Ivy sitting in your lap. I agree that before and after pictures should be shown to the powers that be. She is maturing and her face has lost that painful fullness; She is not so heartbreakingly tiny. I am so happy for all of you. Bless Virgin Airways, Starlight and especially the captains who shower so much happiness and magic on fragile kids but include entire families. There are heroes, your family included.

  • Jennette:

    Ivy has the BESTEST most infectious smile I’ve ever seen! Such pure joy….despite…everything….

    What a wonderful experience for all the family.

    And do you know what Tiff, you are one young and lovely looking woman! Just thought I’d add that ;)

  • kate:

    OMG, I am so glad I checked your blog for an update today, this was the most wonderful story to read. i’m so glad you all enjoyed yourselves. Ivy is such a delight, her smile alone could’ve fuelled that plane.

  • Renae Wales:

    Truly heart warmimg.

  • Susan (1 comments.):

    Wonderful Starlight Foundation. Great photos too.

  • Annette:

    Absolutely beautiful! I am so happy for you and Ivy and the entire family!!! Kudos to the Starlight Foundation.

  • anne:

    Awwwwwwww so precious. Its lovely to see wishes come true …..

  • Bianca:

    What an incredible story and what a incredible charity. This story brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart all at the same time xxx

  • Anne:

    Good one Virgin! Starlight once again you have done an inspirational job. God bless this wonderful family, and Ivy may all your dreams come true. You are a beautiful little girl xx

  • Kristy (1 comments.):

    Thanks Virgin Australia! As a Starlight wish granting volunteer (for the past 10 years), it’s wonderful to see Australian businesses supporting this positively life-impacting program. Most importantly, it’s great to see so many more smiles for these special Starlight children and their families!

  • Roz:

    And this is just one reason why I have been a Starlight volunteer for about 10 years. It really can make a difference.

  • Helen:

    This was such a wonderful experience for Ivy and her family
    I have also seen the happy times the children have in the
    Starlight Room as a volunteer for nine years
    Thank you Virgin Australia and Starlight for tears of joy
    when I hear such happy times you give to sick children.

  • Alisha:

    I lost all my blog feeds when google reader shut down and my chosen backup decided to not back them up. I thought I would do okay without my blogs, that maybe following others lives wasn’t worth the time. But over the last few months I have found myself wondering about your family. Wondering how Ivy and Maddy were doing with their medical needs. So I am back and going over all the posts about your lovely family I missed. Your family is truly inspiring and I love to see the smiling faces. Its a lovely highlight to start my days and go care for others. Thank you for allowing the anonymous internet followers into your lives!

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