Rotary clubs make dream real for British teen
Nicole and her mother, Jackie, see a sloth up close during a visit to the Bronx Zoo in New York, USA. Photo courtesy Jim Romeo, the Bronx Rotary club.
Cameras rolled as 19-year-old Nicole Dryburgh and her family stepped off their flight from London and embarked on a one-of-a-kind tour of New York City, led by some of the city's savviest tour guides: New York Rotarians.
Members of the Rotary Club of the Bronx, New York, USA, greeted the British teen, who had battled a rare form of cancer since the age of 11 and lost her eyesight and much of her hearing.
A BBC news team tagged along to document the trip, which included tours of sites like the Statue of Liberty and the Bronx Zoo, shopping, and a luncheon with the Rotary Club of Staten Island, New York, USA.
"I was really pleased how Rotarians pitched in," said Taylor Eskew, president of the Rotary Club of the Bronx. "Nicole is full of spunk and energy. Everyone felt admiration for her and saw her as an inspiration."
Rotarians volunteered to drive the Dryburghs between sites and arranged custom tours of places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened its doors early to give Nicole a tactile and olfactory tour of the Egyptian art collection. The Bronx Zoo "pulled out all the stops" and let Nicole touch and hold exotic animals like a sloth and an armadillo, said Eskew.
Making it happen
The week-long vacation was organized by Tony Betts, secretary of the Rotary Club of Redbridge, England, who first learned of Nicole's dream to visit New York during the 2008 Rotary Young Citizen Awards ceremony, sponsored by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) in conjunction with BBC News 24. Nicole was honored for her exceptional fundraising work.
"I just thought to myself, I'm going to make that happen," said Betts. "But I didn't have a clue how I was going to do it."
Betts reached out to other Rotarians at home and abroad. With help from Eric Storberg, then governor-elect of District 7230 (New York, USA), and Robert Mintz, manager of Corporate Relations and Global Travel at Rotary International, Betts secured complimentary airline tickets from British Airways and free accommodations at the Time Hotel in New York.
Allan Jagger, president of RIBI, encouraged districts to contribute to the trip, eventually raising enough to give the Dryburghs £600 spending money and an airline ticket for Nicole's brother, Lee. The rest of the money was donated to a charity of Nicole's choosing, the Teenage Cancer Trust .
The BBC news story about Nicole's trip aired on 19 July, 2008.
"I never expected it to turn out like this," said Betts of the media attention. "All I wanted was to give the family a holiday of a lifetime and [for Nicole] to achieve one of her dreams."
View a BBC News profile of Nicole from 2008.
Visit Nicole's Web site.