He’s not actually a man yet, but he is on a mission. A mission to conquer cancer. Mark Mannarn lost his grandmother in 2010 to pancreatic cancer, and during that same period his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. With his life turned upside down by cancer, Mark chose not to sit on the sidelines, but got back on his feet and into the game to fight back.

Like most Canadian boys, Mark lives, breathes, dreams and plays hockey. Mark will tell you that he “loves hockey and hates cancer.” His dream: to create a local hockey skill-building event for young players, led by NHL alumni and Olympians. In 2011, at the tender age of 13, Mark created Minor Hockey Fights Cancer Feel Like a Pro Day to give hockey players aged five to 16 the opportunity to participate in hockey drills with NHL stars and alumni such as former Edmonton Oiler star defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey.


How It Works

Young hockey players raise a minimum of $250 in order to participate, and the top fundraisers and donors are invited to play in a real game with the pros. All of the proceeds are donated to the Canadian Cancer Society to fund cancer research, prevention and information, as well as patient and family support.

Last year, six current and former NHL stars and 200 youngsters participated in the event. Feel Like a Pro Day generated over $100,000 in public service announcements and national media coverage. More importantly, with support from minor hockey players and corporate sponsors, Feel Like a Pro Day raised over $200,000 to fight cancer — the largest amount raised by an individual event organized as part of the Community Partnerships Program in Canadian Cancer Society history! Quite the success story. But Mark isn’t done yet!

Mark’s vision is to see Minor Hockey Fights Cancer become a national fundraising event that raises $1,000,000 a year until a cure for cancer is found.

This year’s Feel Like a Pro Day takes place June 16, 2012 at York University’s Canlan Ice Sports, with a Top Fundraisers All-Star Game and – in honour of Father’s Day – a Father & Child All-Star Game. Some of the pros committed include Wes Jarvis, Bob McGill, Mark Osborne and Sami Jo Small from the Women’s Gold Medal Olympic Team.


Show Your Support

There’s a simple way you can support the cause. Each time a hockey fan clicks “Like” on the Minor Hockey Fights Cancer Facebook page, a corporate sponsor will donate a dollar to the Canadian Cancer Society.

For more information, please visit: www.minorhockeyfightscancer.ca.


A Few Questions with the Man Himself

We were lucky enough to ask Mark some questions about this endeavour, giving us a first-hand look at Minor Hockey Fights Cancer, while also learning more about the man himself.


Q: How did you get the idea to involve minor hockey in your mission?

A: I involved minor hockey in the fundraiser because I love hockey — I have been playing since I was four. I thought it would be a cool way to raise money to fight cancer and play my favourite sport at the same time.


Q: Where did the Feel Like a Pro Day idea originate?

A: I have attended other corporate events where pros came out to teach young hockey fans, and I thought the concept of “feeling like a pro for a day” was a great one. We wanted to make it truly special by adding the All-Star game and inviting some of the pros to participate.


Q: They say success breeds success. Given your current success, where do you go from here?

A: My goal is to help find a cure for cancer. I started this charity to support my mom, and through hard work we were able to raise a lot of money.


Q: Your fundraising goal of raising $1,000,000 is admirable, but what happens if you don’t meet your goal? What will you do?

A: While it’s always possible to not achieve your goals, it’s not what I focus on. I believe a target of $1,000,000 is attainable over time. I hope that if I give it my all, I will reach this goal. I will be satisfied as long as I know I gave it my best.


Q: When you are not playing hockey or fundraising to cure cancer and provide underprivileged kids with a chance to experience Feel Like a Pro Day, what are you doing?

A: I do what other 13 year olds are doing, including spending time on Facebook, chatting on Blackberry Messenger and playing Call of Duty. I also fit in homework when I have to.


Q: Do you see yourself playing professional hockey someday?

A: Although I love the game, I don’t think professional hockey is in my cards. It would be great if it happened, but I don’t think it’s a real possibility.


Q: Okay, who is your favourite player and why?

A: My favourite player is Sidney Crosby because he is the most skilled and dedicated hockey player in the world. As I’m sure you probably know, he has gone through a grueling recovery process from a number of concussions, but he has always found his way back to the game, giving it all his heart.


Q: You obviously have the heart of a champion. What do you think it takes to be successful as a competitive athlete?

A: Just like Sidney Crosby, you have to be dedicated to your craft and work at it every day, even when you don’t want to. You have to also be lucky enough to have a certain amount of natural born skill. However, there are many stories of skilled athletes who don’t have the dedication, and as a result they don’t live up to their potential. I think that having the drive, or as you referred to it as having a “heart of a champion,” is as important as being a gifted athlete.


Q: What about other goals? What are some of the other things you would like to achieve in life?

A: I am only going to high school next year. Afterward, I will go to university and there is no doubt my father will encourage me to complete a Master’s degree. However, I can say for sure that I always want to be involved in sports in some way or another. Since I don’t think I will be playing in the NHL, I would like to be involved in hockey by coaching or becoming a general manager. Hopefully, I will be running Minor Hockey Fights Cancer for the NHL one day.


Editor’s note: Now there’s a goal every reader can support.
Memo to the NHL: Take note. Get onboard! Hire Mark now, and join the fight against cancer!