Lifelong friends (and childhood hockey rivals), Dave Batten and Eddie Mio sat across and beside me respectively, recounting their inspiring connection to Sunshine one Thursday afternoon. Batten & Mio founded the Mio Manz Charities, primarily in support of The Sunshine Foundation of Canada, in 1992 after Batten and his family saw a child with a disability at Disney, excitedly waiting for his turn on a ride. Enjoying Disney with their then 3 year old triplets served as a reminder of how fortunate they were to have three healthy children.
From that point, everything aligned. Dave’s wife Pat urged Dave to team up with Eddie to establish a golf charity to give back to the community. As one of the most giving communities in Ontario (Essex County), the two wanted to ensure that any monies raised were benefitting local children. The Sunshine Foundation of Canada was a perfect fit!
In 1993, the Annual Celebrity Golf Benefit was established and pulled together in an astonishing 6-8 weeks. Eddie’s first call was to his friend and former teammate Wayne Gretzky, while Dave reached out to Air Canada to assist with bringing people to Windsor. Strong connections with the local automotive industry meant that the local Unifor chapter (formerly the CAW) and business also answered the call to support their efforts. 25 years later, current Unifor President, Dave Cassidy recounts his experience as a volunteer on the 2013 DreamLift out of Windsor, stating that “that amazing experience still chokes me up talking about it today”. While Batten and Mio had hoped to raise $10,000 to $15,000 in the first year, they were amazed and pleased when the actual number was $75,000. By 2010, not only had many Sunshine Dreams & three Sunshine DreamLifts been funded by this tournament and other fundraising events led by the Mio Manz Charities, but $1M had been endowed to allow donations from the fund’s interest earnings to continue to support Sunshine still to this day.
Three Sunshine DreamLifts took off from Windsor in the ensuing years (1993, 1996, and 2013) thanks to the generosity of the Windsor community. Literally hundreds of medically complex children whisked away for a day to Disney and back…something many of them never imagined could happen.
On one of these Sunshine DreamLifts, Dave and Eddie joined the day as volunteers. Both refer to this as one of the most rewarding experiences in all of their years of involvement with Sunshine. It was at this point in their storytelling that both men’s eyes began to well up as they recounted meeting a 7-year-old girl with Leukemia, who desperately wanted a picture with the two men. Little did they know how impactful this moment had been for her. Sadly, a mere two months later when Dave, devastated to have to be attending the little girl’s funeral, paid his respects and noted that the picture of the three of them lay in her casket as one of her most prized possessions. That one day made her so incredibly happy…a day to be carefree in an otherwise difficult short life. The impact on Dave, Eddie and this sweet child was clear.
Dave shared another story about a young boy, whose dream was to go to the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremonies, attend a hockey game and see the ski jumping competition. Mio Manz’s support to make that happen helped him realize that he could do anything! He went on to work for the Windsor Spitfires and stays in touch with Dave to this day (in fact, when he turned 19, Dave helped him celebrate!). He can now articulate that his Sunshine Dream gave him the confidence that allowed him to fight his battle, get stronger and accomplish anything he set out to do!
I sat, listening intently to these stories and more, and easily saw just how extraordinary these people (and all of the volunteers and supporters who helped them over the years), truly are. Grateful and community-minded, and the biggest dreamers themselves, they have created an amazing legacy.
Sunshine is so incredibly grateful for ALL of our donors and volunteers and we would like to wish Dave and Eddie a huge congratulations on the 25th anniversary of the very first Celebrity Golf Benefit. Thank you gentlemen, for all you have and continue to do for Sunshine!