By Ron Giofu
It will be a celebration that has been ten years in the making.
The Amherstburg Heroes Athletic Club will be holding its annual dinner fundraiser March 28 and organizers plan for it to be the largest yet. The fundraiser has moved to the Verdi Club and 300 tickets have been printed for the event.
The dinner usually sells out and Heroes co-founder Michelle Jones-Rousseau said the move to the Verdi Club allows them to sell roughly 100 more tickets. Due to it being the tenth anniversary, the event will feature the band “Bigg Wiggle” and a photo booth with Jones-Rousseau stating those are being added to the event thanks to a donation from The Jones Group.
A number of dignitaries are also going to be invited to the fundraiser with local councils also being invited. The invitation to other councils besides Amherstburg town council is reflective of the expansion of the Heroes program, said Jones-Rousseau.
“Amherstburg Heroes has evolved to where it provides opportunities for people throughout Essex County and Windsor,” she said. “We’re hoping there will be representation from other areas.”
The Amherstburg Heroes Athletic Club is a one-of-a-kind service for people with intellectual disabilities, as Jones-Rousseau said they are the only non-competitive organization around. They were approached about becoming affiliated with Special Olympics, but opted to stay a “recreational, non-competitive” team.
“Special Olympics is a wonderful organization but we have many people who didn’t want to be or couldn’t be in a competitive sport,” she said. “They wanted it to be light and fun.”
The dinner has regularly seen many local businesses sponsor it and donate door prizes towards it and organizers hope that trend continues this year. A highlight of the evening will also be the presentation of the Robert Pillon Memorial Award. A video is also being prepared by Heroes athlete Kate Chant and her mother Phyllis.
Organizers also hope the dinner will increase the group’s profile. It has grown from 17 athletes in its first year to approximately 60 currently, but there are still people in the community who don’t know who they are and what they do, said volunteer coach Elke Leblanc.
“We’re hoping Amherstburg Heroes will get the exposure it deserves,” said Leblanc.
The athletes are excited to attend the dinner, Leblanc said, with that feeling being echoed by other volunteer coaches.
“I am very excited for the celebration and so it my whole family,” said Tina Leblanc.
The Amherstburg Heroes Athletic Club is jointly sponsored by the Amherstburg Police Service and Community Living Essex County (CLEC). The program has expanded beyond basketball and now includes baseball at the Libro Centre during the summer months as well as taking athletes bowling and to hockey games.
Tickets for the March 28 fundraiser are $20 and are available at CLEC’s Channel Resource Centre on Bathurst St., Amherstburg town hall, the Amherstburg police station and CLEC’s main office in Essex.