A LITTLE boy who is living with a rare genetic disorder has had the time of his life on a trip to Lapland to visit the real Father Christmas with his family.

Thanks to tireless fundraising by his parents Alan and Karen Jessop, from Richmond, and generous donations from local groups including the Duck Club, Richmond Meet and Risedale College in Catterick Garrison, Joshua Jessop, 10, was able to spend a week in the Santa Claus Village in Finland with his family.

Mrs Jessop said: "It was a wonderful trip, the children all had the time of their lives.

She said: "We had a few dramas, including realising just days before we were due to fly that Joshua's passport needed renewing; and one of our suitcases containing presents for the children and a lot of our thermals went missing during the flight.

"But aside from that, the trip itself was absolutely magical."

Joshua sufferers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disorder characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.

It is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact.

Over the last couple of years, Joshua has created a bucket list of things he wants to experience, and a visit to Lapland has been on the list for some time.

Joshua and Summer-Jane found out about their trip on a visit to Father Christmas at Tesco in Catterick, when they were presented with the tickets.

Mrs Jessop said: "We took them the day before we flew out – I'm surprised they were able to sleep that night.

She added: "We went to the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is basically like a winter wonderland Centre Parcs.

"We arrived in Helsinki and took the Santa Express Train, which is a sleeper train. The children all found it really exciting but we all slept really well.

"Luckily the children had their thermals, but Alan and I had to wear jeans because ours were in the lost luggage so it was freezing – it was -22 degrees.

"The Santa Claus Village was fantastic. There was so much snow and sledges just left around everywhere so we could pull Joshua and his sister Summer-Jane on them which they loved.

"There is Santa's office, a post office, restaurants, elf school, gingerbread house, and you can go on reindeer trips and husky rides."

Mrs Jessop said meeting Santa Claus was a particular highlight for the family.

She said: "We were in our apartment and Santa came past the window.

"He waved and Joshua and Summer-Jane let him in and he spent quite a bit of time with them, chatting and giving them a little present.

"He was so tall and had such a big long beard, he was such a lovely gentleman."

Mrs Jessop said the family always collects mementos from all their adventures, but they needed an entire shelf to fit their collection from the Lapland trip.

She said: "The memories will certainly last a lifetime for all of us.

"Joshua and Summer-Jane loved the sleeper train experience too and now want to go on a dedicated sleeper train holiday!"