Ronald McDonald House

Amherstburg McDonald’s sets records on McHappy Day



By Ron Giofu


Much like it was in the rest of the region and the country, McHappy Day was a hit in Amherstburg.

The local McDonald’s restaurant set records in what it raised for Ronald McDonald House and the John McGivney Children’s Centre. Jodie Phillips, manager at the Amherstburg restaurant, said it took three months to prepare for the May 2 event. She said it wasn’t just preparation work but they asked for donations for charity to “keep families together at the hardest times of their lives.”

Phillips noted that she had a mother come in during McHappy Day and thank them for their hard work and dedication as her twins were born prematurely and the family had to use Ronald McDonald House.

“Before (May 2), our little store in Amherstburg raised over $10,000. Now including (McHappy Day), we raised over $14,000 to donate to the charity. Last year we raised $8,125,” said Phillips. “We almost doubled last year.”

Phillips said they used a lot of social media to promote the message and to sell their merchandise. Local politicians, dignitaries, volunteers and police, fire and EMS staff came in to help out during McHappy Day. Phillips said friends and family helped during the three-month preparation period, as she noted her brother-in-law Mike Arquette came in and so old almost $600 in merchandise within an hour.

Staff and volunteers helped set records during McHappy Day. The Amherstburg McDonald’s set records during the May 2 event. Among the volunteers pictured that assisted staff were Delanie Champagne of John McGivney Children’s Centre, Andrea Kraler from Children’s First and Patti Gibb from Family Respite Services.

“We also had my sons and nephew working the window raking in some donations from people,” said Phillips. “We had former workers come in and help us out because they know how important (McHappy Day) was. Our store set many firsts.”

Phillips noted that Sgt. Scott Riddell helped out again this year and she offered her thanks.

“For the last two years, Scott has came and directed traffic allowing more people to come into our restaurant to purchase meals and donate,” she said. “(On May 2), we did over $20,000 in sales for one day. From 5-6 p.m., we had close to $3,000 in sales. That’s a whole lot of Big Macs and that wouldn’t have happened without the dedication of my crew and managers and again the help from Scott.”

The Amherstburg community was the key to making McHappy Day and the weeks leading up to it a success, she added.

“We have an amazing town I am so proud to be part of this community the love and support they gave (on McHappy Day) is overwhelming it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it,” said Phillips. “I am so proud of everyone.”

Amherstburg boy survives life-threatening illness, family plans fundraiser



By Ron Giofu


With Gabriel Dufault-Truant on the way back from a life-threatening illness, his family wants to give back to an organization they used during his time in hospital.

As Dufault-Truant spent 74 days in the London Health Sciences Centre battling a sinus infection that went to his brain, the Amherstburg family spent time at the Ronald McDonald House. The family now wants to give back and is holding a fundraiser April 1 at Dominion Golf Course.

“It was around Canadian Thanksgiving when Gabe had cold-like symptoms,” recalled mom Krista Truant. “He was off school for a couple of days.”

A fundraiser is planned for April 1 to give back to Ronald McDonald House after the Truant family spent 74 days there after son Gabriel got sick. From left: Helena, Gabriel, Jaxson, Krista and Rick Truant.

A fundraiser is planned for April 1 to give back to Ronald McDonald House after the Truant family spent 74 days there after son Gabriel got sick. From left: Helena, Gabriel, Jaxson, Krista and Rick Truant.

After taking cold medication, he felt better and returned to class at Anderdon Public School, where he is in Grade 8. However, Krista said she received a call from the school not long after he returned about Gabriel not feeling well. Noticing he was lethargic and acting strangely by doing such things as turning his iPod on and off repeatedly and fumbling with his seat belt, she called an ambulance for him. After the lights and sirens were activated on the way to Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus, she learned Gabriel had a seizure in the ambulance.

Gabriel spent five days in the hospital and a few days after being discharged, the paramedics were called again and he ended up having another seizure in the emergency room. He spent two days in the intensive care unit (ICU) and things didn’t improve.

“They didn’t have any answers,” said dad Rick.

Gabriel was sent to London via helicopter just in time, Rick added, as if they had waited six more hours, Gabriel would likely have died.

Doctors put three burr holes into the left side of Gabriel’s skull to relieve the pressure but that didn’t work. Half of his skull was then removed with the other half following a day later when that didn’t work. Gabriel then spent two weeks in a drug-induced coma.

“They mentioned to us he may not be the same child you brought in,” said Krista.

When Gabriel did pull out of his coma, Rick said he had a bit of movement on his right side, none on his left and couldn’t speak. At one point, a total of 64 IV lines were connected to Gabriel.

Other issues that had to be dealt with included Gabriel’s allergy to anesthesia and when his blood refused to clot. While the bone flaps from his skull were off, he had to wear a helmet whenever he left his bed with a friend of the family painting a baseball helmet for the young ball player.

The bone flaps were reattached during a Dec. 19 surgery with the surgery lasting 12 hours instead of the usual four. Rick explained the pieces of the skull no longer fit right so parts had to be shaved down. Skin from a human cadaver also was placed in Gabriel’s skull to act as further protection for his brain.

Even the doctors were praying for Gabriel, Krista added, with the 13-year-old becoming a “miracle child.” He was on the prayer list at St. Joseph Church and the family even brought in healers to help him improve.

Gabriel Dufault-Truant shows the scars on his skull after major surgery in London. He had to have his bone flaps removed to relieve pressure on his brain.

Gabriel Dufault-Truant shows the scars on his skull after major surgery in London. He had to have his bone flaps removed to relieve pressure on his brain. (Special to the RTT)

“We attribute (his recovery) not only to good health care, but the power of prayer,” said Krista.

His speech and movement improved thanks to physiotherapy and he was able to bypass further rehabilitation that was supposed to be in Toronto and return home Jan. 6, which is also his younger brother Jaxson’s birthday. The Truant family said Gabriel’s class at school was wonderful and they sent him gifts, cards and positive messages throughout his ordeal.

“The whole community was awesome,” said Rick.

Currently, Gabriel is being home schooled as he is still recovering from the surgery and lights and sounds bother him. He also gets tired more easily, Krista said. However, he had a video game party at his home recently and does visit the school once a week.

“He’s looking forward to touring with Ornge to meet his flight crew and tour the helicopter,” said Krista.

Asked how he felt, Gabriel simply said “fine” and that he feels like himself again. He said he is looking forward to going back to school.

Gabriel noted that his friend Al runs a T-shirt business and created a special Superman-type logo only with a “G” inside of it. A cape was received from the Happy Soul Project and the family also created the #TeamGabe hashtag.

The fundraiser April 1 sees doors open at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5:30 p.m. Proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwestern Ontario. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children under 12 and will be available at the door. It is all-you-can-eat pasta, salad and rolls with raffles and a 50/50 draw also part of the evening.

“They were so good to us,” Krista said of the Ronald McDonald House. “It was a refuge for us. Everyone was amazing. We always knew it was a great charity, but never until this situation how good it is.”

For further information, e-mail or call 519-736-3149.

Kids Curing Cancer holds fourth annual fundraiser



By Ron Giofu


The fourth annual Kids Curing Cancer event looks to be well on its way to a record fundraising total.

The main fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the Fort Family Fun Centre (formerly known as the Verdi Club) with over 200 people in attendance. It featured a pasta dinner, live entertainment from the Baillargeon family and raffles.

The event was spearheaded by Lauren Baillargeon, a Grade 7 student at Malden Central Public School, as well as her younger siblings Ty and Kierstyn. Mother Jodi Baillargeon noted that in addition to the over 200 tickets that were sold, they had over 70 door prizes.

Lauren Baillargeon plays the violin during the “Kids Curing Cancer” event she helped organize last Saturday.

Lauren Baillargeon plays the violin during the “Kids Curing Cancer” event she helped organize last Saturday.

“It makes me feel good. It helps the community,” Lauren said of the event.

It also helps keep her grandfather’s memory alive. Kids Curing Cancer started in 2014 when Lauren’s grandfather – and Jodi’s father – Dan Gerard was sick with cancer. It started with the idea of Lauren wanting to raise $50 and they sold bracelets to help generate the money but the first fundraiser ended up raising $3,860.

The 2015 was the first at the Verdi Club and that raised $6,230. Gerard died shortly after the second event and that left doubts at the time of whether they should hold a third event but it went ahead in 2016 and raised $6,850.

A fundraising total from last Sunday’s event is not yet available.

The family is a musical one and they provide the live entertainment at the events.

“A lot of the songs they are going to be performing tonight are songs (Gerard) taught the kids,” said Jodi, prior to Saturday evening’s performance.

There were a mix of new and familiar faces at Saturday’s fundraiser with it growing by word-of-mouth as the years go by.

“Every year, it seems to be getting bigger and bigger,” said Jodi.

Lauren credits her mom for helping out but Jodi pointed out it was Lauren’s idea to get more kids involved this year as many of Lauren’s friends and relatives helped sell raffle tickets and get the hall set up. Lauren also recorded a five track CD in which proceeds also go to Kids Curing Cancer.

The Baillargeon family performs during the Kids Curing Cancer event held at The Fort Family Fun Centre (formerly known as the Verdi Club) Feb. 25.

The Baillargeon family performs during the Kids Curing Cancer event held at The Fort Family Fun Centre (formerly known as the Verdi Club) Feb. 25.

Saturday’s event was the second of three being held this year as a kickoff event was held at the Libro Centre Feb. 5 in conjunction with the Amherstburg Minor Hockey Association, the General Amherst girls hockey team and the Integrity Amherstburg Admirals. That day raised $4,341 with the third event being this Sunday as the Windsor Spitfires have become involved as well. The Spitfires host the Sudbury Wolves at the WFCU Centre this Sunday at 2:05 p.m. with $5 of every $16 ticket purchased through being donated to the cause.

The event raised over $16,000 for the patient assistance fund at the Windsor-Essex Cancer Centre Foundation with a plaque being installed at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus recognizing that feat. This year, the Baillargeons wanted to share their proceeds with another organization and decided on the Ronald McDonald House after a recent tour.

Pamela Sahli, community relations associate with Ronald McDonald House, was impressed with what she saw last Saturday evening.

“This is just so amazing. These kids are so inspirational. They are blowing me away,” said Sahli. “We love all of our community support but it’s even more special when it comes from kids.”

Sahli said Ronald McDonald House has been open in Windsor for ten months and is the first one in Canada to be contained within a hospital as it is part of the Windsor Regional Hospital Metropolitan Campus. Support from the Kids Curing Cancer fundraiser helps them aid more families, said Sahli.

The Ronald McDonald House in Windsor currently had five long-term rooms and two short-term rooms.