Graeme McDowell is delighted to be able to use golf to make a difference and see some tangible results from the fund-raising efforts of the G-Mac Foundation.
Since it was set up in 2011, the Foundation has raised close to $2m to help build a new cardiac unit at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and bring three separate groups of children — including their parents and siblings — on the trip of a lifetime to Disneyland.
The latest group arrived in Orlando on an Aer Lingus flight yesterday and McDowell could not be happier to play host.
“You don’t do it for personal fulfilment, you do it because you can and you need to be able to go and use what you have out here," McDowell said. "There is something fulfilling about it. To see the photos, to hear from the people. It’s great. It means a lot and puts your life in perspective.
“It’s a great cause and we are excited about it. When we started the Foundation, we wanted something real and measurable. Putting cash into a conglomerate, you never actually see anything. To actually see stuff happening at Crumlin is just great."
Colin Morrissey of Horizon Sports Management, who helped McDowell set up his Foundation, explains how the relationship with Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin began.
“The cardiac unit has a great staff and expertise but the facilities were outdated and needed to be completely refurbished,” Morrissey explained. “At the time we were setting up the G-Mac Foundation they were planning to build a new unit so we decided to focus the attention on the cardiac unit because it was cross border and needed the most attention.
“Since then we have had three fund-raising auction dinners in New York in 2012, 2013 and this year. The first year raised $500,000, the second year $500,000 and this year $700,000.
“We had David Feherty there as well as Graeme and Paul McGinley, and Robbie Keane did a video message.
"All the money is split evenly between the G-Mac Foundation and the Children’s Medical Research Foundation (CMRF), which is the research arm of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital. But effectively the money is all channelled back into the new cardiac unit, which officially opened in January this year.
“Graeme has been to visit the hospital a couple of times as part of the awareness campaign. the problem is when a child falls ill and they are from Letterkenny or somewhere far from Dublin, the mother or father ends up living in the hospital, sleeping on a camp bed for six months.
“They are commuting around the other siblings obviously suffer too. So we decided if there was some way we could help those families out. So for the past three years and with the help of Aer Lingus, who sponsor it and give us free flights, we bring over seven or eight families and the children who are well enough to travel after serious illness to Disneyland in Orlando for five nights with free hotels, spending money, the lot.
“We bring them over, eight families from all over Ireland, north and south. Graeme meets them off the plane and they go to Disney's Polynesian Resort and get their spending money, their Disney dollars and have a good time. There is a night out and a show on Wednesday too and two different nurses travel with the group every year.
“They have the run of Disneyland for four days. We have a dinner with Graeme and his wife Kristin on Friday and they fly home on Saturday night.
"We’ve raised $1.7m over the last few years and helped 24 families come over to Disneyland for a week. They don’t have to put their hand in their pocket, just come over and forget about their troubles and enjoy themselves.”
McDowell knows none of this would be possible without the help of a dedicated team.
“Obviously the relationship with Crumlin and the CMRF has been such as good match for us," he said. "We have raised close to $2m and Colin, Joe Quincy and Eamonn Coghlan have put a huge amount of work into it, as have the CMRF."