AddThis SmartLayers

Lensman's bid to make a wish come true

When Kentish Express photographer Paul Dennis met Bernadette Waitson he was so touched by her bravery and spirit that he decided to do something very special for her and make a dream come true.

Thirteen-year-old Bernadette, from Newchurch, suffers from cerebral palsy.

She is wheelchair bound and has had to undergo a number of painful operations – the most recent just three weeks ago to correct a curve in her spine.

Paul first met Bernadette in April. He went to take a photo of her after her brother painted her bedroom with pictures of dolphins to make it look less like a hospital.

  • Paul Dennis tells Bernadette about her trip
    to swim with dolphins
  • Bernadette loves dolphins and she told Paul she wanted more than anything in the world to be able to swim with them.

    Paul was so moved by her beaming smile, her chattiness and courage in the face of her problems that when he left her house he decided to help make that dream come true.

    In the past seven months he has been raising money to send Bernadette and her parents, Sally and Bernard, to Orlando. During their two-week stay they will be visiting Disneyland and Bernadette will be going to DolphinCove to swim with the therapeutic mammals.

    The Kentish Express put up the £600 to pay for the flights and the £680 needed to pay for the accommodation was raised – with some to spare – at the Kent Messenger’s annual awards evening at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone two weeks ago.

    Paul’s efforts secured an offer from Virgin Atlantic for discounted flights and discounted accommodation from Virgin Holidays.

    Bernadette was lost for words when Paul visited her to tell her about the trip.

    He said: “Earlier in the year when I first met Bernadette it was apparent that she was a very special little girl.

    “She is very brave, determined and happy go lucky.

    “I have always been involved in doing things for charity and decided I wanted to do something for her. I got in touch with Virgin and it went from there.

    “It was very emotional telling her. It has been a lot of hard work but to see her little face light up when she realised she was going to swim with dolphins made it all worthwhile.”

    And when the family travels in March, Bernadette has promised to send Paul and everyone at the Kentish Express a postcard.

    Back to the photography index