7 April 2020
Opal Heart Media
Michael ‘The Legg’ Manion was a vibrant character of the Australian wool industry, who passed away too early in 2014 at age 61. But his vibrant spirit lives on. With the creation of the Michael Manion Wool Industry Foundation (MMWIF) families in the bush with special needs now have someone standing in their corner.
This small charity, with only six directors, raises funds from direct donations and from the auctioning of donated wool bales and works personally with families. “It is rare for people in the bush to ask for help but if they’re having a hard time, through illness or other circumstances, we want to look after them,” MMWIF chairman Ken Stock says. “We can make a decision quickly, our overhead costs are next to nothing and we like to be in contact with the actual family.”
Since the Foundations inception in 2015 it has helped eighteen families with a range of challenges. “For example, we helped a little guy up in Campbell’s Creek in Victoria who lost his eyes to cancer,” Ken says. “We paid for his prosthetic eyes and got him a braille machine. They weren’t sheep farmers, they were just out in the bush and they are the sorts of people we like to help.”
In January 2020 the MMWIF created a holiday of a lifetime for the Mills Family of Armidale, who live in cancer’s shadow. Carmel Mills has stage 4 terminal breast cancer and her husband Greg was undergoing prostate cancer testing. They have two daughters, Destiny (15) and Annabelle (11). Destiny has a connective tissue disease. If ever a family needed a holiday to remember it was the Mills.
Flying to Sydney the family firstly overnighted at Taronga Zoo with guided tours of the animal sanctuary and a Wild Ropes course for the girls. They then moved to the Meriton in Darling Harbour and explored Sydney’s attractions and attended musicals and live theatre, before moving over to Kensington where Destiny and Annabelle participated in a drama course at NIDA.
“It was absolutely wonderful; the holiday of a lifetime and those memories will be with the kids forever,” Carmel says. “Because I could fly down I had some energy to do some things and one of my highlights was watching the kids’ faces as they watched the musicals with their mouths hanging open in awe. Every time we turned around there was something else to do and something to look forward to and for a while they didn’t have to think about cancer and treatments.”
The MMWIF aims to raise up to $100,000 annually to support families like the Mills. “If you want to donate to anybody, donate to us because nearly every cent you give actually goes to the people who need it,” Ken says. “Obviously we can’t heal them and we haven’t cured anybody yet but we can put a smile on the dial.”
The Mills Family are smiling and appreciative of the opportunity to spend precious time together. “Thank you for providing all this for my family,” Annabelle says in a letter to the MMWIF. “We couldn’t thank you more or be more grateful for this amazing trip.”