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ER CHRISTMAS; THREE local youngsters are back home after spending three exciting days in Lapland.The Coventry Telegraph teamed up with Mercia FM, Tommies Children's Centre and Cosmos to give the trio the trip of a lifetime at the end of a tough year for all of them. Reporter SAMANTHA CLARKE and photographer MARK RADFORD joined them on the trip.

Byline: SAMANTHA CLARKE

THREE local youngsters are back home after spending three exciting days in Lapland.

The Coventry Telegraph teamed up with Mercia FM, Tommies Children's Centre and Cosmos to give the trio the trip of a lifetime at the end of a tough year for all of them.

Reporter SAMANTHA CLARKE and photographer MARK RADFORD joined them on the trip.

THREE little faces lit up with delight when a familiar figure came walking towards them during a visit to Santa's Village in Lapland.

Little Amy Biggs, Stephen McGuire and Ryan Newsham were already bursting with excitement, having helped some of the elves make toys to deliver to children all around the world on Christmas Eve.

And they were just about to board the coach back to their hotel when a jolly fat chap in a long red coat trundled towards them and an army of other young children.

Father Christmas's appearance came at the end of a visit to his village in which Amy and Stephen, both aged eight, and Ryan, aged seven, had toured his house, seen his bed and been shown round his post office, which contained millions of letters from children all around the world.

While in the post office Santa's helpers picked out three letters to show as examples to the party of visitors.

And Stephen, Amy and Ryan were excited when they realised it was their letters in the elf's hand, meaning Santa now knew what each of them wanted for Christmas.

After the tour, the three jumped back on the bus and were then driven into the freezing depths - or rather heights - of the picturesque Arctic Circle.

Standing 400 metres above sea level in biting winds, Amy, Ryan and Stephen watched as all the children in the party were blessed in a ceremony.

The children were told the blessing meant they would come back as a reindeer in their next life.

Less than impressed at the thought, Amy and Stephen declined the offer but Ryan was all for it -and was mightily chuffed when he was told he would come back as a king reindeer.

At the end of the day the three headed back for a party in the hotel. There they met with Santa again and each were given presents.

Speaking at the end of their trip Stephen, a Courthouse Green Primary School pupil who was chosen for the trip after losing his young mum Michelle to cancer in May this year, said: "I enjoyed Santa's Village the best. It looked all chocolatey.

"I helped the elves make the toys and I'm hoping Santa will bring me a tennis set for Christmas.

"I enjoyed everything in Lapland. The party was excellent too."

Ryan, of Clare Close, Leamington, was chosen after fighting cancer for the past year. He said he liked being blessed as a reindeer.

He said: "The man said I was a special little boy when he blessed me.

"I loved the elves at Santa's Village. There was a lazy one who was sleeping in bed while all the others were working.

"I loved that elf.

"When I saw Santa I knew then that he was real, Amy, Stephen and Ryan, Santa's workshop.

and I am going to tell my brother Liam because he doesn't believe it. I'm going to tell him I pulled his beard and it didn't come off."

For Amy the highlight of the trip was also seeing Santa.

Amy, of Palmer Road Whitnash and a pupil at St Paul's Primary School in Leamington, was selected to go after coming to terms with the death of her 30-year-old dad Simon in September.

Amy said: "I would love to come to Lapland again. I would love to bring my cousin, Big Amy, who is 16. I'm Little Amy and she's Big Amy. And I'd also love to bring Jo from Mercia, Sam and Mark the cameraman."

The children's relatives also enjoyed the trip.

Ryan's mum Karen Newsham, aged 33, said she planned to save up to return with Ryan, her husband Dave, and two other children Hannah, aged 12 and Liam, aged nine.

And Stephen's dad Mark, aged 33, of Pearson Avenue, Bell Green, said: "He enjoyed every minute. He loved Amy and Ryan and he loved seeing Santa. It's what it's all about."

Amy's grandmother

Sandra Biggs, aged 50, a telephonist, of Brownlow Street, Leamington, added: "Amy has had a tremendous time and wants to come back. I think this trip to Lapland has really helped her."

CAPTION(S):

MR221206LAPL_98 LITTLE HELPERS... The children, from left watch an elf at work wrapping presents in' MR221206LAPL_95 NAME CHECK... The reindeer names outside Santa's post office.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 26, 2006
Words:779
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