By Stefano Grande
Connection, celebration and reflection – that’s what the Michael Wirth Memorial Tournament means to family and friends of Michael Wirth.
I want to share with you a little bit about the Wirth family’s story, and how they have found a way to honor Michael’s life by joining a dedicated group of donors supporting kids’ cardiac care at the new Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre.
February is heart month, and a great time to reflect on the many ways #CommunityChampions put their heart into helping #GiveBetterFutures for kids.
Since 2015, the family and friends of Michael Wirth have been hosting an annual golf tournament at Rossmere Golf & Country Club, not only to share stories but to fundraise and support initiatives benefiting kids, like the new Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre at HSC Children’s Hospital.
Michael died in 2014 from an undiagnosed heart condition called an aortic dissection aneurysm, where a vessel in the heart is stretched.
Michael’s dad, Ryan, came up with the idea to have a fundraising tournament to honour Michael and the event has become more and more successful each year.
But a week before the second annual tournament, Ryan also died suddenly. So Ryan’s wife, Leslie, dedicates a hole at the tournament in his honour. She calls it the Sod Father Hole, as Ryan loved the family business, Perfect Landscaping, which he and Leslie ran together for 35 years. The Sod Father Hole has been a huge success every year.
Michael’s brother, Steven, tells us the event is healing.
“The golf tournament every year rehashes difficult feelings, but it’s good to have those feelings come out,” says Steven. “It’s a whole community of people with lots of stories about Michael.”
Many of Michael’s friends come in from out of town for the summer tournament, or send messages of support and donations. The Wirths work hard to make it a fun day and have activities, games or prizes at each hole. They’re grateful for the dedicated volunteers and generous sponsors that make the event possible.
In 2022 the event raised more than $17,500 for cardiac care at HSC Children’s Hospital, something that’s very close to the hearts of the entire family.
The condition Michael had can be hereditary, so once the Wirth family knew the cause of Michael’s passing everyone went for genetic testing. Michael and Michelle’s youngest son, Logan has an aortic dilation like his late father. The condition is treatable and with early intervention the risk of an aneurysm is greatly mitigated, so Logan receives care at the new Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre. Michelle is grateful for the support.
Thanks to donor support, the new Children’s Heart Centre is successfully expanding capacity, providing more than 6,000 kids, like Logan, each year with leading-edge treatment and care.
We’re very grateful for families like the Wirths, who find beautiful ways to honour cherished family members and make a difference for kids in their community.
How will you help #GiveBetterFutures in 2023? Learn the many ways to show kids your heart at goodbear.ca.
Stefano Grande is the president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.