EIGHT very lucky and excited students from The Abbey School defied Hurricane Florence to head off on the trip of a lifetime to Florida last weekend thanks to The Children With Special Needs Foundation (CWSNF).

The group, accompanied by CWSNF founder Gordon Parris and other volunteers from the charity, as well as school staff who best understand the students’ needs, flew from Gatwick on Sunday for an action-packed 10 days.

Their busy itinerary includes visits to Discovery Cove, Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, rides on an airboat, Sea Life Centre and Madam Tussauds Celebrity Wax Attraction as well as Walt Disney World, Sea World and Legoland.

The students , few of whom have ever flown before and some having never stayed away from their families, will also benefit from the experience of travelling and living together as a group.

Trip leader and assistant head at The Abbey, Carol Gardiner, said: “The children and their families are hugely grateful to the sponsors, host organisations and volunteers who have made the trip possible and to the CWSNF team who have spent months planning and raising support.”

The Florida trip is a dream the charity has made come true for scores of young people in special schools across the local area over the past 14 years.

A group of children from The Abbey also made the trip to Florida last year thanks to the CWSNF - albeit later than planned due to the devastation brought to the Caribbean and Florida by Hurricane Irma.

Another hurricane, Florence, again threatened this year’s plans. But fortunately the youngsters were able to stay in a hotel at Gatwick overnight on Saturday before boarding their British Airways flight on Sunday morning, arriving safely in the US later that day.

As a consolation for the students at the school who don’t get to go to Florida, the charity has laid on a whole school trip to the Sleeping Beauty pantomime at Camberley Theatre towards Christmas.

Students will also have the opportunity to apply for tickets to watch Aldershot Town FC play at the EBB Stadium this season.

The CWSNF has funded 20 tickets for parents and carers to take their children to experience the excitement of live home games from the specially-commissioned Community Stand.