It was the best birthday party a young man ever missed.
More than 200 people gathered at the John D. Bradley Centre Friday night for the 10th anniversary of Make Children Better Now (MCBN), the mental wellness non-profit organization founded by Mike Neuts.
What most didn’t know was that Aug. 14 would have been the 28th birthday of Mike and his wife Brenda’s oldest son Myles, who died after being hung from a coat hook in school washroom in 1998.
Since that time, the family endured an intense police investigation in which no charges were filed, a public five-week Coroners’ Inquest which resulted in 24 recommendations (nine of which have never been acted on) but no determination on the exact nature of Myles’ death. The case remains officially open.
After the anger and frustration with the legal system left the family finally strapped and struggling, Mike began to heal the only way he knew how, by talking about what happened.
“I know the boys responsible for hanging Myles on that hook didn’t mean to kill him but I also know they had bullied him,” Mike said. “The only way I could think of to help was to do what I could to prevent bullying so that someone else’s child didn’t suffer the same way.”
Since that time, Neuts has spoken to more than 200,000 children, launched the Respect Revolution, a musical program which tours schools and a variety of other initiatives.
MCBN has donated nearly $90,000 to children’s programs.
Saturday night was no different as $10,000 was given to the local school breakfast program and another $2,000 to help train and pair dogs with children who have epileptic seizures.
It was a night of celebration, laughter and gratitude.
“No one makes this journey alone and it’s especially true in my case,” Mike said. “I didn’t know anything about speaking in public or asking people for money or running any type of group like this. If I had to begin thanking people who’ve helped me, I’d be here all night.