Fundraiser being held for teen hospitalized with an inflammation of the spinal cord



By Ron Giofu


A fundraiser is being held March 4 in McGregor to help a Western Secondary School student who is being treated for an inflamed spinal cord.

Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon, 14, went to bed the night of Sept. 26, 2017 with a feeling of pins and needles in his arms and legs. His aunt Kari Dufour said that was attributed to him possibly sleeping wrong but when his mother Betty-Joe MacDonald went to check on him around midnight, Phoenix had no feeling from the neck down.

Dufour said Phoenix was transported to Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus but was soon airlifted from there to London’s Children’s Hospital. Doctors there suspected he had suffered two strokes but are now treating him for Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.

The teen spent time in a medically-induced state and breathed through a trach tube but now is able to breathe on his own. He is now at the Bloorfield Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto, where has been recuperating since Dec. 5.

Phoenix now has some movement in his extremities and can do such things as help cook and communicate via social media. The Grade 9 student is able to work towards getting school work done as well.

“He’s working on getting some credits while up there as well,” said Dufour.

Betty-Joe MacDonald and her son Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon will be the subject of a March 4 fundraiser in McGregor. (Submitted photo)

Dufour indicated that it is still unclear as to whether Phoenix will walk again but is making constant progress so far. He will remain in Toronto until his progress plateaus but the family has a target date of the end of June to bring him home.

“As long as he is making gains, they will keep him there,” said Dufour.

Phoenix’s spirit has helped get him through a lot of what he has gone through so far, Dufour stated, but acknowledges there is a lot more work to do.

“He’s worked very hard to get to this state,” said Dufour. “He’s got a long road ahead of him but he’s got an amazing outlook on life. I think that has helped him get to where he is today.”

In an update posted to her Facebook account Saturday morning, Betty-Joe stated that it was their 21st weekend away from home.

“Phoenix is still making huge gains. It’s awesome to see what he can do different everyday. He’s still working on his goal of sitting up on his own. His core is getting stronger everyday,” Betty-Joe stated as part of her update. “Phoenix was lowered onto the side of the therapy bed an was able to hold him self up in the sitting position for a few minutes. He has the strength now to hold him self in the position when we try to ‘push’ him over. He is able to lower himself onto his forearm and push himself back into the sitting position. It’s hard to explain in detail the things Phoenix can do everyday it’s something new. “

Betty-Joe added that “Phoenix has to learn how to control every muscle in his body over again. It’s these things we take for granted because it happens naturally for us. He’s been getting muscle stimulation everyday now on his left bicep, this is an attempt to try to get his left arm moving in the upward motion. So maybe one day he will be able to feed himself, give himself a drink, brush his hair or teeth or even just to scratch an itch on his face. Everything takes time and patience and Phoenix has the determination to succeed at obtaining these goals.”

Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon is still able to communicate via social media despite his ongoing recovery from Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. (Submitted photo)

Phoenix starts Wednesday in the therapeutic pool Betty-Joe added, though acknowledges “he’s not looking forward to it but understands that this may be another way of strengthening his muscles. We are using every recourse available to help Phoenix any way possible.”

The family, including Phoenix’s older brother Raven, is currently residing in a small apartment in Kingsville but Dufour said they hope to move back to Amherstburg where the bulk of the family resides. Betty-Joe had to quit her job to help support Phoenix and the family will need an accessible home upon their return.

“They are in need of some help,” said Dufour. “Betty-Joe is a single mom with two boys.”

Other items Phoenix will need include a wheelchair, medications and 24/7 assistance. They will also have to cover costs to get him back and forth to therapy sessions.

“We’re trying to make the fundraiser as big as we can,” Dufour said.

For more information or to purchase $20 tickets for the pasta fundraiser at the McGregor Columbian Club Hall (formerly the McGregor K of C), call Dufour at 519-819-9173 or e-mail her at People can also call Misti Moyer at 519-965-1514 or Larry and Laura Lee Bezaire at 519-736-5267.

The fundraiser runs from 4-7 p.m.

There is also an online fundraising campaign, as a GoFundMe campaign has been started. To contribute, visit and search “Help Phoenix with Medical Expenses.” The direct link is

ACS’ “SOUPer Wednesday” returns Feb. 21


Soup lovers across Windsor-Essex rejoice – SOUPer Wednesday returns to Amherstburg Feb. 21.

The annual soup cook-off is now in its fourth year as a much-needed fundraiser for its host, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS).  The non-profit organization’s executive director says the funds raised will go towards the purchase of a new accessible vehicle.

“We’re looking to this event to kick-off a fundraising campaign that will help us purchase a new, accessible van,” DiBartolomeo said.  “For $10 a ticket, not only will you get to try some of the best soups made by some of the region’s best restaurants, you will give a helping hand to the people who rely on our transportation service.”

ACS has provided nearly 25,000 rides for seniors or adults with physical mobility issues over the past three years.  In December, they took one of their vehicles off the road and are looking to replace it.

The SOUPer Wednesday event pits 13 local restaurants and chefs against each other to determine who makes the region’s best soup.  Ticket holders receive all-you-can-eat soup, one dessert serving, and a ballot to vote for their favorite soup entry, and takeout tickets are also available.

The event will be hosted at the Columbus Community Hall (formerly known as the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall) at 190 Richmond St from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and is sponsored by John D’Alimonte & Kim Wheeler RE/MAX Preferred Realty, Season’s Amherstburg, Dollars & Cents Investments, and Tino’s Auto Service.

This year’s participating restaurants are the 19th Hole at Wildwood; Armando’s Amherstburg; Artisan Grill; Beacon Ale House; D.o.C.K 21; Dalhousie Bistro; Gilligan’s Amherstburg; Knights of Columbus; LA Town Grill; Maria’s Restaurant; Season’s Amherstburg; Smashed Apple Catering and Takeout; and last year’s champion Specks.

For more information, people can contact Amherstburg Community Services at 519-736-5471 or visit their website at

Amherstburg Freedom Museum and Artists of Colour unveil “Journeys” exhibit



By Ron Giofu


A new art exhibit is on display at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum with the official opening last Friday night.

“Journeys” debuted with Windsor-Essex County artists contributing work towards the exhibit’s first phase, entitled “New Canaan Journey in Pursuit of Freedom.” The exhibit is described as showing how the Underground Railroad gave birth to the first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change within the United States. The exhibit is further described as one that “speaks of the courage and determination of a people who refused to accept the degradation of slavery. Both black and white stood up against the injustice and demoralization of slavery, risking their lives and livelihood opposing the injustice inflicted upon their brothers and sisters.”

Dennis K. Smith, one of the artists that comprise the Artists of Colour, said the exhibit shows where they came from and what it took to find freedom. He said they hope it travels around as a teaching tool.

Lana Talbot shows one of her paintings that are featured as part of the “Journeys” exhibit at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum through April 1.

Accompanied by musicians Jim Walls and Karzell Dew and conductor Milo Johnston, there was a presentation describing the stories behind the 14 paintings in the Nazrey AME Church before the public went to the second floor of the museum building to view the works themselves.

“We tell our story through art,” explained Smith. “As we tell it, we learn a little more about ourselves.”

Mary-Katherine Whelan, curator at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, stated the exhibit is about “the journey to freedom.” It is another way to provide an educational tool to those who may not know the history.

“It’s important to tell the story of a generation who refused to accept the degradation of slavery,” said Whelan.

The exhibit will not only run through February, which is Black History Month, but right up until April 1.

Connie Lee-Turner stands with one of her paintings that is part of the “Journeys” exhibit. The art can be viewed on the second floor of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum.

The Artists of Colour also plan an exhibit at Mackenzie Hall in Windsor May 11-20 entitled “Mosaic.”

The Amherstburg Freedom Museum is open Tuesday-Friday 12-5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 1-5 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $6.50 for students and seniors with Whelan adding that people will get $1 off admission during Black History Month if they can answer when the Nazrey AME Church was built and by whom.

For more information, call 519-736-5433 or visit There is also a list posted on the website of other Black History Month events happening, with Whelan noting the list was compiled by the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.

Local marathon runner doing so in memory of Boston Marathon bombing victim


By Ron Giofu


Add an Amherstburg woman’s name to the list of those helping to remember one of the victim’s of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Ashley Kellam will be returning to Boston again this year but will this year be a part of Team MR8, the team set up to remember Martin Richard and to raise funds for the Martin Richard Foundation. Martin Richard was an eight-year-old boy that was killed during the bombing at the Boston Marathon five years ago.

“I’ve gone the last five or six years,” said Kellam, of running in the Boston Marathon. She was one of the participants in 2013 as well. In the last few years, she noticed the “Team MR8” on other runners’ bibs and, after investigating it, decided to apply to be on the team this year. She was accepted.

“All proceeds go to projects that promote peace and inclusion in the Boston area,” said Kellam.

Team MR8 is made up of Richard’s initials and his favourite sports number. Bibs also say “Peace” due to a photo that surfaced shortly after Richard’s death with a sign reading “No more hurting people. Peace.”

Kellam said that members are asked to raise a target amount of donations, this year the minimum being $2,500 U.S.

Pictured is a look at the CrowdRise page started for Ashley Kellam. Kellam is running in the Boston Marathon again this year and will be part of Team MR8, a group of runners raising funds for the Martin Richard Foundation. Richard was an eight-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“This year I am so humbled to be running on Team MR8 in the Boston Marathon to help raise money for the cause. I’ve been spreading the word through family and friends and on social media to collect donations and spread awareness about the foundation,” she said.

Kellam said she is over half-way to her $2,500 U.S. goal and is continuing to raise money. This year, she will be running in the Boston Marathon with her sister Samantha as both qualified at a race in Michigan last year.

While they run regularly during the year, Kellam added they start training harder and focusing on the Boston Marathon in December.

Kellam said she hopes to be on Team MR8 annually.

“Being on the team is a nice way to give back to the community,” she said. “We’re raising money for a wonderful cause and a remarkable foundation.”

The foundation is “very inspirational,” she added, and that it is nice to shed some light on it.

According to the foundation’s website,, “the Martin Richard Foundation provides opportunities for individuals and communities to live out the values of peace, justice and kindness.” It’s vision is: “We envision a place where people recognize the humanity in others and model the decency needed for a united, compassionate, and inclusive community.”

To contribute to Kellam’s fundraising efforts, people can click on and search “Ashley Kellam.” The direct link is


Windsor-Essex Pride Fest to hold community engagement sessions in county



By Jolene Perron


Those within the LGBTIQ2S+ community are being called upon to attend community engagement sessions throughout the county over the next couple of months as a local organization plans to deliver new specialized programs.

With funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest (WEPF) is planning to develop and deliver recreational and social programs to ensure all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S+) community have access to programming to ensure that they can connect and engage with other members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community and the greater community as a whole.

“The best way for us to understand what type of engagement would best serve the LGBTIQ2S+ community, especially outside of Windsor, is to hold community consultations to give members of the Windsor-Essex community the opportunity to tell us what programs they would like to see, and what are the best ways for us to provide opportunities for engagement and connection,” said David Lenz, president of the WEPF. “We chose the Town of Essex, Municipality of Leamington and the Town of Amherstburg as our Community Consultation locations.”

Lenz said they hope all members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community who live outside the city of Windsor limits, as well as their families, will attend the sessions to share their thoughts and ideas on how WEPF can best provide opportunities for connections and engagement in their respective communities. WEPF wants to know exactly what kinds of programs and social activities people in the LGBTIQ2S+ community need and want.

Currently, WEPF does not have any programming opportunities available in Amherstburg.

“The LGBTIQ2S+ community experiences a unique social isolation compared with other marginalized groups,” said Lenz. “Research indicates that the individuals in the LGBTTQIA community are 2.5 times more likely to live alone. The lack of peer or social support, activities, gatherings or other connective resources in the community cause a form of social isolation that often escalates into a number of other problems, including homelessness, depression, violence, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse and dropping out of school for some LGBTIQ2S+ youth.”

This is the reason the WEPF non-profit organization was developed. It is incorporated in the Province of Ontario and run by a volunteer Board of Directors, geared towards bringing members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Two Spirit (LGBTIQ2S) community together, as well as their friends, allies and supporters.

“Through advocacy, social programs/events and initiatives, WEPF strengthens the sense of community and contributes to the vibrancy, health and overall well-being of LGBTIQ2S persons in Windsor-Essex,” said Lenz. “Windsor-Essex Pride Fest’s goal through it’s social programs funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation is to support the LGBTIQ2S community by empowering individuals to reach out to each other and to facilitate opportunities for connection and belonging through age-specific activities or initiatives, peer-facilitated groups, workshops and special events which will address social isolation and create a social environment that is more accommodating, resilient and connected to the broader LGBTTQIA community in Windsor-Essex.”

The community engagement session in Amherstburg is Jan. 31 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Amherstburg Community Services office.