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Mark Mannarn, who has been raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society, practises hockey near his home in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Mark Mannarn, who has been raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society, practises hockey near his home in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Taking a (slap)shot at beating cancer Add to ...

Mark Mannarn, Minor Hockey Fights Cancer, Founder, Toronto

Mark Mannarn, 13, is like other kids his age: He likes to play hockey, talk to his friends on BBM and go on Facebook. However, motivated by his mom’s struggle with cancer, on June 18, Mark was the “coach” of Minor Hockey Fights Cancer Feel Like a Pro Day, a hockey tournament held at York University in Toronto, to raise funds toward the cure for cancer by matching NHL hockey players with local donors.

Motivating factor

“I lost my grandmother in 2010 to pancreatic cancer. At the same time, my mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer. In the fall, I attended We Day, and Spencer West, a motivational speaker who has no lower body and walks on his two hands, talked about his life. He announced that he was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. His story motivated me to launch Feel like a Pro Day.”

First steps

“I approached my best friend’s father, former Edmonton Oiler Paul Coffey, who is an inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and asked him to help.”

How does the event work?

“If you donate $200 you get to practise with a pro. That means being on one of York University’s ice pads with only 25 other kids under the age of 16, running drills for an hour with a pro like Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk. If you donate $1,000 you get to play in a real game with the pros and referees – just like a real NHL game with three periods but a lot fewer penalties. At the end I got to make a cheque presentation to the Canadian Cancer Society.”

Your hero

“My mom [Judy] because she fights cancer every day with an upbeat and positive attitude.”

What money buys

“The $200,000 we raised will pay for a full year of the Canadian Cancer Society peer support program; $200,000 is also almost enough for two research grants.”

What keeps you going?

“I love hockey. I hate cancer.”

Personal sacrifice

“I had less time for watching TV and playing video games.”

Next steps

“Feel like a Pro Day is really starting to pick up steam. A boy in Cole Harbour, N.S., who has cancer wants to host an event and so does another boy from Brampton, Ont. My dream is that Minor Hockey Fights Cancer will eventually raise $1-million every year until a cure for cancer is found.”

Star sponsor?

“Sidney Crosby, because he is today’s hockey role model for skill and professionalism. If he got behind Minor Hockey Fights Cancer, then I know other kids would want to get involved.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. Send suggestions for the Action Figure to Livebetter@globeandmail.com.

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