CHRISTMAS will be extra-special for one little Sheffield boy this year – after he was given the all-clear from cancer and enjoyed a flying visit to see Santa.
Sam Vernon has spent the last three Christmases fighting for life.
However, the six-year-old is now in remission and got to meet Santa Claus at the weekend on a special flight for children battling serious illnesses.
Mum Jenny, aged 36, who joined Sam on the flight, said: ““We have spent the last three years wondering what the future held, so for Sam to be in remission this Christmas is wonderful and for him to have been invited on the flight is something he will never forget.
“You never think it is your child who is going to become seriously ill, so when it happens it is absolutely devastating.
“So for him to have fought this and to have the all-clear for Christmas is going to make this year even more special for our family.”
“He has been amazing through all this, so brave, even through some really tough treatments but he always had a smile on his face.
“We tried to stay strong and positive throughout and feel very lucky that we have him here with us this Christmas.”
Sam, from Wadsley, was told he was in remission in March, having first been diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in February 2009, when his condition was assessed as stage three, just one down from stage four, which tends to be terminal.
He was invited on the magical flight – during which Santa made a special appearance and handed out gifts to all the children – by Cancer Research UK, who selected winners of the charity’s ‘Little Stars’ awards which recognise the courage and bravery of youngsters fighting cancer.
Jenny said: “Sam was so excited about the flight - he was counting sleeps from when he was told about it and he smiled throughout it all.
“Meeting Santa on the plane was really magical for all the children - it was lovely to see all their excited faces.”
The flight was organised by airline Ryanair and Leeds Bradford Airport for children with serious illnesses or who have had a tough year.
They were joined on board by Santa’s helpers and elves and Disney favourites, including Beauty and The Beast.
Airport chief executive John Parkin, who grew up in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, where his mum still lives, said: “This was all about deserving kids having a great day to remember – some of whom had never been on a flight before.
“To see all their smiling faces and to hear them screaming in delight when the plane took off and landed, and when Santa made his surprise visit, was fantastic.
“It is the second year we have been involved in this and you hear some really heart-rending stories of what the children have been through or are still going through, so to see them so happy was very special.”