POG Sports Honouree 2022
Mitch Marner is a professional hockey player and alternate captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2022 Portraits of Giving Sports Honouree. Marner was born in Markham, Ontario, and grew up in Thornhill.
Mitch humbly recognizes the spotlight on him (as a Maple Leaf) and the opportunity it brings to affect positive change in people’s lives every day. He and his family embrace this fully; an inspiring example of this is the Marner Assist Foundation (MAF) they created to make a difference for children and youth in need. Through the development of grassroots initiatives, fundraising events, strategic partnerships, and donors, the foundation has created a strong team of changemakers dedicated to strengthening our communities and creating a sustainable future for children and youth.
There are so many great service organizations and individuals the foundation has been able to support over the years. One memorable experience Mitch holds dear is a heartfelt connection he had with Hayden, a young girl he met on one of his visits to the London Children’s Hospital, when he was playing for the London Knights. Hayden was battling cancer. This relationship, amongst others he developed during his regular, encouraging, and compassionate visits to the hospital, gave him the idea to create the MAF so that he could do more to help sick children and others in challenging circumstances.
Mitch and his MAF team are amazed at how much of a difference they have been able to make in the community in such a short amount of time. The gratitude they have for their generous supporters and partners, most of whom have been with them from inception, is hard to put in words. Mitch says they are the real heroes and, together, they all feel incredibly rewarded every time they put a smile on a child’s face; it is as simple as that.
Mitch, his family, and the MAF team reflect on the impact of the pandemic, saying it gave them even more reason to live purposefully in their own lives and for others. In April of 2020 when there was so much insecurity, instability, and fear—through their first online campaign—they chose to support kids and families who lost their food programs due to school closures through Second Harvest. MAF held other on-line fundraisers as well as created the Give A Gift holiday campaign to assist these same service organizations to provide for under-resourced families still facing financial challenges and food insecurity.
The Marner All-Star Invitational 2022 will be its fourth season and in 2021 alone they raised over $300,000. A few of the noteworthy initiatives the MAF has supported include a substantial donation to Second Harvest that facilitated the distribution of over 250,000 meals for people in need, a $50,000 grant for the Child Life program at SickKids Hospital, $25,000 contribution to the Eabametoong First Nation’s youth-focused programs as well as funding many mental health programs supporting our most vulnerable communities.