Graeme McDowell takes heart kids on Disney World dream trip
Big-hearted champion golfer Graeme McDowell has flown seven children with serious heart defects to meet Mickey Mouse at Disney World in Florida.
The recently married 34-year-old, whose wife Kristin is expecting their first child, said it was important for him to support the seriously ill children and their families.
"The families that we get the opportunity to meet – they can't help but put a smile on your face," the Portrush man said.
"A young kid being born with a heart defect can really rip a family apart – mums and dads sleeping in hospital bedrooms for months on end, siblings not really having two parents at home because of the demands on their time with a child as sick as the ones we are talking about.
"So, having an opportunity to do a trip like this, put the families back together, put smiles on faces, just have a great time, really."
The trip was put together through McDowell's GMAC Foundation, which worked with the Children's Medical & Research Foundation, the fundraising arm of Dublin's Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, and Aer Lingus.
"Aer Lingus have been amazing to us," he said. "This is the third year of them donating 30 return flights from Dublin to Orlando, a flight that I use a lot myself. It's a great service and we are very lucky to have their support.
"Any kid born with heart defects born north or south of the border ends up at Crumlin Hospital and that was really important to me, and that's why it's been such a good feeling and a great relationship.
"This trip is just the icing on the cake for me, really."
McDowell said the foundation was a dream of his.
"But little did I know what it would turn into, and this is such a fun thing to do and I love it. It's just amazing," he said. "Disney World is obviously a great experience for the kids, just a time to be together. We will have dinner on Friday night and hear their stories and find out what some of these little kids have been through.
"It puts life in perspective for sure. Hopefully they can have an amazing three or four days and hopefully see Mickey Mouse and put a few smiles on some faces."