The Jamega Pro Golf Tour is again supporting children’s charity Dreamflight to provide once-in-a-lifetime breaks for children with a serious illness or disability. Once a year, children from all over the UK, accompanied by a team of medical carers, board a chartered Boeing 747 and head to Florida to spend ten magical days of fun and excitement.
Many children could not undertake such a trip without the support of the doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and non-medical volunteers who care for the children 24 hours a day. It costs approximately £3,500 to send one child to Florida on a holiday of a lifetime and the Jamega Pro Golf Tour supports Dreamflight to achieve this.
Patricia Pearce MBE (pictured), founder of Dreamflight commented, “Having started the charity 29 years ago, I cannot believe it is still going strong. It was meant to be a one-off trip but I soon realised there are so many deserving children out there that we carried on. Dreamflight is not only a holiday of a lifetime but also a life-changing experience. We have now taken 5,200 children to Orlando.”
One youngster who benefitted from a Dreamflight holiday was Aidan Healey (pictured) from Leeds. At just nine years of age he was struck down with a rare autoimmune disease, Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM), that affects just one in 250,000. Symptoms are joint pain, weak muscles, rashes, tiredness, irritability and fever.
Healey said, “The illness robbed me of my mobility and I ended up having to use a wheelchair for almost three years. I endured nine months of chemotherapy, countless tablets and many different forms of treatment and have been in and out of hospital more than 100 times.” As a recipient of a Dreamflight holiday in 2004, Aidan found that it wasn’t just a fun adventure but that being away from family, friends and familiar surroundings gave him a sense of independence and a new-found confidence.
Now 20 years old, he continued, “Being with other sick and disabled children made me realise I wasn’t alone and there were others worse off than me. I came back from the trip a different person. Dreamflight really did change my life.”
One of the highlights was meeting and having the chance to interview European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter and it inspired Healey to focus on his own golf when he returned. Six years on, when in remission from JDM, he was invited to play in Poulter’s first Dreamflight Charity Golf Day at Woburn Golf Club, and despite the illness returning in 2012 he has continued to spend up to five hours a day practising.
He added, “Through sheer determination and enjoyment, and having never had a golf lesson in my life, I have managed to get my handicap down to two. My motto is never give up, never give in. In October 2015 I will start my PGA training to turn professional and I’ve also been made an official Dreamflight Ambassador. So to anyone out there who may think it is just a trip to Disneyworld, going on some rides and swimming with dolphins, please believe me it isn’t. It really is a life changing experience for the children – and I can vouch for that!”
Aidan even competed for the first time as an amateur on the Jamega Pro Golf Tour last season at Mentmore Golf and Country Club, shooting a solid 79 and 75. More at: www.dreamflight.org