Sometimes good ideas don’t announce themselves, they just arrive.
That is how it was for David Batten and former NHL goalie, Eddie Mio, who founded the Mio Manz Charities thirty years ago. During that time, the charity has raised over $4.5 million and made a difference in the lives of numerous children who have either a life threatening illness or severe disability. Thirty years on, David and Eddie feel it is time to draw the curtain. As stated in a commemorative book about the charity: “In 2022 our founders decided to throw one last benefit before hanging up the skates for good. The 2022 Mio Manz Celebrity Golf Benefit is both our 30th Anniversary and our Grand Finale.”
For all of the congratulations and praise they received for their efforts, David and Eddie offered their own thanks and gratitude throughout their conversation with The Drive Magazine.
“We could not have done any of this without the generosity and compassion of the people of Essex County,” Eddie says. “They are the ones who made it happen.”
“The foundation of our event was two guys,” David says. “Wayne Gretzky and Canadian chairman and president of Ford Motor Company, Jim O’Connor. People asked us: ‘How did they get a power house group like those two?’ Jim O’Connor pledged so much at that time. And it was amazing for Wayne to show up to this humble little golf benefit.”
The original idea stumbled together from a few different directions.
Eddie is quick to say: “It was David’s idea,” but David counters, saying: “Well, Eddie had his own fundraising deal, for the Erica Borgens Research Fund, in the States. We had a beer one day and Eddie was telling me about it. I said I would like to put together something for this region, raising money for local kids.”
Inspiration came when David visited Walt Disney World with his wife and small children. As they stood in line for a ride, David and his wife, Pat, noticed a child with a disability also waiting. They were both struck by the look of genuine excitement and wonder on the child’s face. That image stuck with them, and they felt there was a great need to make sure that others had the opportunity to experience that same sense of wonder.
David brought the idea to Eddie.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” David explains. “We thought about a celebrity golf tournament. Someone asked: ‘Who will get the money?’ We had no idea. We thought about Make a Wish Foundation, but when I enquired, they said the money would go nationally. We wanted the funds to stay local.”
As they attended to their businesses and daily lives—David had triplet sons and a daughter—he and Eddie moved forward with their plans for a celebrity golf tournament.
From his years in the NHL, Eddie had numerous contacts among professional hockey players. Wayne Gretzky was one of his best friends. In fact, Eddie was best man at Wayne’s wedding to Janet Jones. That was a start.
“A guy I played golf with worked for Air Ontario,” David continues. “He said they could probably help with getting a deal on flights, bringing people in.”
In the end, the first Mio Manz Celebrity Golf Tournament took place at Pointe West Golf Club. Among the celebrity attendees were Wayne Gretzky, Jim O’Connor, and an entourage of NHL players. By that time, David and Eddie had also learned about the Sunshine Foundation, which was founded in 1987 by a London, Ontario police constable as a legacy to his son who passed away from muscular dystrophy.
The Mio Manz charity event raised $75,000.
Subsequent Mio Manz charity golf events took place at Beach Grove Golf & Country Club, and David and Eddie had a way of attracting celebrities to their cause. Hockey legend, Bobby Hull, never missed an event. Musician Alto Reed, long-time saxophonist for Bob Seger’s band, attended each year.
“I remember when Alto came to his first event,” David says. “I asked him where his golf clubs were, and he said: ‘I don’t have any clubs.’ I asked where his golf shoes were, and he said: ‘I don’t own a pair.’ Well, we got him outfitted and he had a great time. Turned out, that golf tournament was the first time he ever golfed in his life!”
Mio Manz Charities was involved with three Dream Lifts with the Sunshine Foundation.
As David and Eddie wrote in the commemorative book, looking back on thirty years of Mio Manz Charities: “What was unexpected was the gifts they provided us. Returning from Orlando, walking down the dimly lit aisle of the plane, was a young man out of his wheelchair, back to the window sound asleep. He wore a Mickey Mouse hat and embraced several stuffed Disney characters and banners. His smile would melt our hearts.”
During our conversation, David and Eddie continuously praised the efforts of the celebrities, donors, along with the charities’ volunteers, and its numerous sponsors.
“They made it possible,” Eddie says.
“We just wanted to do something for kids,” David adds.
For more information on how to donate and/or volunteer, visit miomanz.com.