Lori Christine Fergusson 1955-2008 - Macleans.ca

Lori Christine Fergusson 1955-2008

She helped disadvantaged kids, some seriously ill, others with mental challenges, realize their dreams


Lori Christine Fergusson

Lori Christine Fergusson (née Hayes) was born in Winnipeg on Aug. 26, 1955, with the love of travel bred into her genes. Her father, James Hayes, was a porter with CP Rail. Her mother, Florence, a part-time cleaner with the Canadian National Railway, held the fort during her husband’s frequent travels. In all, Lori had six siblings, and she would frequently have to hold her own against the teasing of her three brothers, Florence recalls.

Lori was a shy and gentle spirit, with a love of children and a compassion for strays. “Animals used to always follow her home,” Florence says. “Especially cats. I guess she was just a lovable girl.” She attended Elmwood High School in Winnipeg, and, after a stint working for Zellers, she joined Air Canada in 1987. “She liked travelling,” says Florence. It was after a transfer to Air Canada’s Vancouver operations in 1991 that Lori found the passion that consumed the rest of her life.

Airline volunteers in Toronto had started a charity in 1989, which raised funds to send a planeload of disadvantaged children to Walt Disney World. The first flight, in 1990, sent 68 children and 32 escorts on a whirlwind one-day trip to Florida. The idea inspired Lori. Shortly after her transfer she helped establish a Vancouver chapter. In 1993, Lori, and by now a small army of volunteers, led the first group of 125 B.C. children—some seriously ill, others with mental or financial challenges—on a trip to Disneyland in California. As far as Lori was concerned, it was love at first flight.

From then on Lori had two jobs: her full-time work for Air Canada guest relations, and her all-consuming charity work as founding Vancouver president of Dreams Take Flight. The charity grew to eight Canadian cities, and Air Canada stations in Los Angeles and Tampa. It offers trips each year to some 1,000 children. For a time, Lori also served as the charity’s national president.

Monica Tepper, a Vancouver manager of inflight services for Air Canada, is in her 12th year as a volunteer with Dreams, the last eight as vice-president. “What inspired me to keep going with Dreams was Lori’s passion for it,” she says. It was 12 years ago that Lori met Logan Fergusson, now a purchaser for an upscale Vancouver hotel. They were introduced through a mutual friend at a party. “Things didn’t exactly go as planned,” recalls Logan. Through a comic misunderstanding, each left thinking that the other was gay. That got sorted out within days, and they were married six months later.

Marrying Lori carried a stipulation. “I married her charity as well,” Logan says. Although each flight is but one very long, very eventful day, it requires a year’s worth of planning, fundraising and logistics. Like Lori, Logan was hooked on Dreams from his first flight, 11 years ago. “I got to realize how small my world had been until then,” he says. “It’s amazing the strength these kids have. Just seeing them actually become children again on that day is just huge.” Lori and he were unable to have children, says Logan. “So her life was dedicated to other people’s kids—kids that really needed help.”Lori was diagnosed with brain cancer in February 2007. She battled through it with surgery, radiation treatments and chemotherapy, refusing, of course, to miss that year’s Disney trip on the third Tuesday in October. “We thought we’d kicked it by December,” says Logan. Lori’s work earned her an Art of Excellence award by Air Canada, which included a free trip to anywhere. The couple celebrated by going to Australia last January. Lori had befriended a girl named Amber, who was too sick with cancer to make the 2007 Dreams flight. Amber had given Lori a purple balloon, on which she’d drawn a face and pasted on yarn for hair. Lori took the balloon, named Leila, to Australia. At key points on the trip she’d inflate Leila, and Logan would take their picture. Lori made an album, says Logan, “so Amber saw Australia through Leila’s eyes.”

The cancer, a particularly aggressive and invasive strain, returned in April, says Logan. Monica, who has stepped in as president, remembers her friend urging her to keep Dreams alive. “Which we’re going to do,” says Monica. “We’ve got to keep her legacy going.” Amber grew stronger. Lori grew weaker. She used the last of her fading strength to help organize this year’s event. On Oct. 21, confined to a wheelchair, Lori made her last trip to Disneyland. Among the 125 excited children aboard was Amber—one of 2,000 children over 16 years to whom Lori helped give the gift of a single, magical day. She died on Nov. 12, barely three weeks later, her last wish fulfilled. “Dreams,” says her husband, “was her dream.”


Lori Christine Fergusson 1955-2008

  1. I also got hooked on DTF 12 years ago by Lori and have had a great time helping Lori. Lori will be missed by many people and I would love to help keep Lori’s “Dream” alive.


    • When I met Lori in 91 at Air Canada Vancouver Res office, I knew this was a woman with dreams. We went to Hawaii together with a few friends from the office and her close buddy from Winnipeg. When she came up with starting Dreams from Vancouver was behind her all the way. Was on the first few flights and it was and still is an amazing event to be part of. We WILL keep Loris Dream alive….she was and still is loved by so many and who miss her dearly


  2. I too have had the blessing and pleasure of working with Lori and Dreams for the last 10 years and will continue doing so. Lori became a good friend of mine over the years and she will truly be missed. My life is a better place for having known Lori. She was and always will be an angel and is now watching over us all. We love you and miss you Lori… forever in our hearts, forever in our dreams….

  3. Lori was a blessing in everyone’s lives, we had an angel here on earth! The way she could inspire and motivate people to join her cause was extraordinary! Her energy was contagious and her humour was the glue.

    We are all better people for having known such a wonderful gal.


  4. I was also bitten by Lori’s bug for Dreams Take Flight. She was so passionate, how could you not want to be a part of something so amazing. I was on the first flight and on Lori’s last flight and a few more in between. She had an amazing drive and energy to get the Dreams flight off the ground every year and every year was always a little better than the last. She also fought through her cancer with the same drive and determination. Through her illness, she never lost her determination to be well or her love for life and certainly never her sense of humor.

    Lori was always thinking and doing for others right until the very end of her beautiful life.

    Thank you for your inspiration my friend, your light continues to shine so bright.


  5. This is an awesome story about an awesome lady with a beautiful big heart!

  6. I also had the pleasure of knowing Lori through the Dreams Take Flt. organization by virtue of carrying out maintanence on the Lockheed 10 CF-TCC as required when in Vancouver.She was always so positive that you could not help but share her enthusiasm in everything that she did—always—.There was always a barrel of laughs when the group was in relax mode.——She will surely be missed by anyone who knew her.

  7. I have had the plaesure and honor of being friends with Lori in Winnipeg then moving out to Vancouver myself 13 years ago she got me hooked on Dreams. Lori was not only a Sweetheart but a strong wonderful Women that had a huge love for Children we all miss her every day that passes what a wonderful Lady.

    God Bless you my Friend xoxo

    • I had the pleasure of knowing Lori for the last 3 years. Watching her work tirelessly despite being sick was a true inspiration. I will miss her and think of her often in years to come.

  8. I had the privelage of working with Lori in Winnipeg, her boundless energy and compassion for the issues which really count in life were contageous. During her all too short stay with us she not only gave so unselfishly of herself but inspired countless others to follow her example much to the benefit of thousands. Rest proudly Lori.

  9. My Aunt Lori was a wonderful woman. We would tease each other and laugh about many things. We are actually only separated in age by a few years. People would stare at us when she introduced me as her nephew… they wouldn’t know if it was a joke or not. And she would always laugh that laugh of hers…the one that was full of pure joy. I am proud of her and all that she accomplished. I am proud of the love that she and Logan shared. I am proud that I was able to share in her love.

    love always Auntie..

  10. I have never met Lori, but share in her Dreams of making a Dream come True for as many Children as possible. I too got hooked after my first Dreams Take Flight Trip with the Children in Atlantic Canada and have been a committee member for more then 12 years now. The Dreams Flight Chapters are all one big family and when we heard of Lori’s illness we were all sadden for her and her family. To hear how she soldiered on to the end shows what a remarkable lady she was and she will be definitely be missed by a lot who knew her and also those that have heard about her but were unfortunate not to get to meet her.May God Bless You Lori and Help you watch over the Dream Flight Program in which you played such a huge part.
    Mark Kays
    VP Dreams Take Flight Atlantic

  11. I guess you can say I grew up with Lori being her cousin. However, I never really didn’t get to know how beautiful she was until I had asked her to be one of my bridesmaides, when she was only 13 years old in 1968. She was truly shy and looked like a beautiful angel dressed in an icy santin blue dress on my special day. I loved her so much. Yes she was a very passionate person. After I moved to Trinidad my mother always told me how Lori would visit her frequently and keep her company as if she was her own daughter while I was away. Then my mother also became ill with cancer and Lori was there comforting her and visiting with her in my place while I was away. After my mother had passed away I met Lori and thanked her. She told me how they had great talks together and laughs and I saw the great love in her eyes when she spoke and we became even more than cousins, like blood sisters forever. I felt angry and mad when I heard she got cancer and I prayed for every day to get better. Yes Lori was a very strong person and she loved her husband very much. She spoke to me about him often and her beautiful Dreams for children and how much it ment to her. I must say that I am truly sorry that I didn’t get to see Lori before she passed and maybe it was not ment to be as I should always remember her with the beautiful soft peachy cheeks, beautiful smile, sparkle of her eyes and a laugh you could not forget. I love you Lori…my sister, my cousin. May your dreams continue always with God’s help.

  12. I met Lori when she came to my office to inform me that my Manager had promised her radios for DTF. Her sense of business and her beautiful smile told me that no matter what I said, she was getting those radios! I then got hooked on DTF and have some wonderful memories of Lori. She told me there was a meeting and I was to help her make munchies for it. The ‘meeting’ ended up being my own surprise birthday party! to which my good friend Logan was invited… and so it began. I love them both and am so glad to be a part of DTF and their personal dreams.

  13. Wow…………WONDERFUL story………..would have loved to have known her…….