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Graeme McDowell gives new meaning to the term 'hospital visit'

By Karl MacGinty

The golfer from Portrush has shown his steel in four Ryder Cups and he ground down all comers, including Dustin Johnson, to claim his first Major win at the 2010 US Open.

McDowell combines an intensive practice routine and playing on Tour with a hectic life off-course. He and wife Kristin, for example, last year celebrated the birth of baby Vale and now, with a newborn in their family home in Orlando; a successful restaurant, Nona Blue, and a new beer among many business interests. He's a real action man.

This week, however, his focus will be elsewhere as he welcomes eight families from all over Ireland to Orlando for a break at Disney from the stress and anguish serious illness to a child can bring.

For four years, the GMac Foundation has organised this visit by patients of the cardiac unit at Crumlin Children's Hospital, the centre of excellence for Ireland North and South, plus parents and siblings.

The foundation, managed by Dubliner Colin Morrissey, has teamed up with stars like Robbie Keane, Jonathan Sexton and Eamonn Coghlan to raise a whopping $2.5 million for the hospital's Children's Medical Research Fund but this annual visit has a special place in McDowell's heart.

"Colin and Joe Quincey and the guys at the CMRF have been hugely influential in putting it together and the support from Aer Lingus, giving us 35 return flights each of the last four years, is huge," he explained.

"It's wonderful to be able to give families four or five days in the sun and an experience that, hopefully, can help bond them back together. Having a very sick young child is tough on families. Effectively, they are torn apart by the time they've had to spend in hospitals.

"We've enjoyed getting to know the people and their stories, which can be heart-warning, sometimes heart-breaking too," he added, explaining one child who visited them in recent years has since passed away.

"Thankfully, that's not a big number, considering how sick some of these children are but it's heart-rending."

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