Pop quiz: What do you get a PGA Tour player who enjoys equal parts style and substance for Christmas? If you’re Ian Poulter the answer arrived via Twitter earlier this month courtesy a determined 14-year-old with a 25-handicap and a serious golf jones.
The Tweet from Aidan Healey arrived just as Poulter was getting ready to play the Chevron World Challenge and was about as good of an early holiday boost Poulter could have expected.
“He texted me to tell me he got a hole-in-one,” Poulter smiled widely.
Healey was among the 192 children from the United Kingdom Poulter met on the tarmac at Orlando International Airport a few weeks earlier when the Dreamflight touched down in central Florida for the 26th consecutive year, and the teenager – who suffers from a debilitating muscle wasting disease – left a lasting impression on Poulter.
The muscle ailment robbed Healey of his ability to play cricket or soccer so he turned to golf and neighbors from his village near Leeds, England, chipped in to buy him a golf cart to help feed that passion.
“It’s nice to meet someone like that who is passionate about golf and he’s a lovely kid and he certainly enjoys having fun,” Poulter said.
Having fun is the central theme to the Dreamflight, which began in 1983 as a way to allow children with serious medical problems a chance to spend 10 days at central Florida’s numerous amusement parks thanks to an army of doctors, nurses, volunteers and Poulter, who started donating his time and money to the organization three years ago after meeting Dreamflight co-founder Pat Pearce.
“Pat gets them away from all their troubles in life, just helps them see something. The light at the end of the tunnel,” Poulter said. “They have to go through their daily troubles, but to get them out of that situation for a week to see them smile and play and swim with the dolphins and scream on the roller coasters . . . it’s a joy to see.”
Poulter donated a portion of his charitable proceeds from this year’s Tavistock Cup to Dreamflight, which costs about $1 million and requires numerous medical groups to travel with the children that feature a doctor, three nurses, a physical trainer and three volunteers.
“Any child who has something wrong with them or has been through an operation deserves a treat in life,” Pearce said. “I always said they are like rosebuds who open up during the week. We take home different children.”
Poulter also works throughout the year to provide Dreamflight items for charitable auctions, such as autographed flags from tournaments, but his most poignant impact was the time he spent with Healey and the other Dreamflight children during their stay in Orlando.
“If I can do anything with what I do in the game of golf to see these kids benefit I’m happy to do more and more and more to make sure we get more children to Orlando to have the time of their life,” Poulter said.
And in return he can count on the occasional Tweet from Healey, which is more than he could have ever hoped for.