Fourteen patients from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children received a Star Wars-themed send off at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's Terminal C Monday morning.
People dressed as storm troopers, along with dogs dressed in R2-D2, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca costumes, accompanied the travelers through the terminal to their gate.
"This is the best thing ever," one woman said as she snapped cell phone pictures of the entourage. "I'm about to get on a plane and I am terrified, so this is going to make my day!"
All of the patients were amputees. Their destination: the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado.
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"I"ve always wanted to go skiing," said 14-year old Jaddi Morquecho who had her foot amputated when she was 10 years old. "It makes me feel a lot better about myself knowing I'm not going through it alone."
"You'll think, skiing?" Dr. Tony Herring said. "But what it does for the kids is it takes them out of their shell."
Herring, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Scottish Rite, first organized the amputee ski trip 39 years ago.
"They come on the trip and they're throwing legs all around the condo and piling them up at the hot tub, and they come out of their shell," Harring said. "They tell me later, 'That's when I really realized that's when I could be who I am.'"
"I might have a disability, but I don't see it as that," said 18-year old Cody McCasland.
He was born with a spinal abnormality that made his legs misshapen and not functional to walk. His mother made the difficult decision to have her son's legs amputated when he was just 14 months old.
"It was the right choice. Without that, he wouldn't be doing the things he's doing today," said Tina Dean, McCasland's mother. "It brings such joy to see what he's done and the message he brings to the world."
"I was kind of scared about falling a lot and I got over that fear pretty quickly because I started falling a lot," McCasland laughed. "But that's basically how you learn. You have to fall and then you have to get back up."
Herring said the medical staff learns how to be better caretakers when they see their patients outside the hospital, coping in the "real world."
"You come back thinking, 'Why do I ever complain about anything?'" Herring said.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines flies everyone on the amputee ski trip for free. The group boarded their plane Monday under an arch of light sabers, then their plane taxied under a firetruck water cannon.