St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School presents “Rock of Ages”



By Ron Giofu


Big hair, big bands and 80’s music was on full display over the weekend at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School.

The Villanova Players presented the first weekend of “Rock of Ages,” the high school edition of the show featuring life on the Sunset Strip, efforts to save a famed club and some personal relationships at the same time.

The show has been worked on for much of the 2017-18 school year.

“We had auditions in October and started rehearsing in November,” said Owen Bortolin, who plays “Drew Boley,” one of the lead characters.

Rehearsals have been taking place several times per week but have intensified recently to where they went until 9:30 p.m., added Jessica Amyotte, who plays one of the villains “Hilda Klineman.”

“It’s all for the greater good,” Amyotte said of the late rehearsals. “It’s been really fun.”

Both Bortolin and Amyotte said they enjoy performing in front of the crowds.

“It’s cool to listen to the music our parents listened to compared to what we are listening to,” said Amyotte.

“The show really pleases the older crowd,” Bortolin added.

Bortolin added while acting and singing may not be his career, he still would like to do so on a recreational basis. Amyotte added if she doesn’t perform full-time, she would still like to find ways to stay active in the theatre.

“I really enjoy doing this,” she added.

The show features a wide range of students helping out including on-stage performers, singers, a pit band, backstage crew, set designers, dancers, tech people, a production team and video and graphics students.

“Rock of Ages” continues this weekend in St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School’s Festival Theatre with shows Thursday-Saturday, all at 7 p.m. Tickets for Thursday’s show are $8 while Friday and Saturday ticket prices are $12 for adults and students, $8 for seniors and children 6-12 while children under six are free.

Local schools roll out the welcome mat for prospective JK’s



By Ron Giofu


Both the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor-Essex District School Board rolled out the welcome mat for new students last Wednesday evening.

JK open houses were held by both school boards with local elementary schools joining in welcoming next year’s class of junior kindergarten students.

“We’ve had a strong turnout,” said Stella Maris School principal Sophie DiPaolo. “We’ve had a lot of kids turn out. It’s good to see.”

Not only were the kindergarten rooms open, but so was the gymnasium with demonstrations on robotics and other school programs available as well. Children also had the opportunity to make a craft.

“We want them to give us a shot,” said DiPaolo. “It’s just a warm, caring faith-filled place to be. I’m really proud to be a part of this fabulous school.”

Cole, Amelia and Brady Young attended the JK open house at Anderdon Public School last Wednesday night.

DiPaolo added that they want parents and children alike to know what Stella Maris offers. She said they are not only an academic school, but there are a number of extra-curricular programs available as well. Teachers are very active, she added, and help run many of the additional programs.

Pam Badiuk, principal at Anderdon Public School, said they are proud of their school and its history in the community. She said the educators are excellent, dedicated and know the community well.

“When you come here, it’s a well-rounded education,” said Badiuk.

Anderdon has a full-time music program, band and drum line, she added, and is also one of the few platinum eco-schools within the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“All kids, starting in kindergarten, have access to the library,” Badiuk added, noting they have a full-time librarian.

Badiuk also touted Anderdon’s extra-curricular programs and sports teams.

“We like to be competitive, but in a respectful mindset,” she said.

Technology is in every classroom, Badiuk stated, and that they are also proud of their math and reading programs. Regarding the latter, Anderdon uses Lexia and Empower programs.

Lauren Meloche helps Jaelyn Vigneux with a craft during the JK open house held Feb. 21 at Stella Maris School.

“It honestly has improved our reading programs tremendously,” said Badiuk.

Anderdon also offers the GAINS (Give Attention to Individual Needs) program, she added.

Badiuk added: “Children are welcome here and feel welcome here. It’s a large school with a small town feel.”

Both the public and Catholic boards are offering JK registration through March 2.

“Nifty Needleworkers” sharing their craft with local children



By Ron Giofu


A group known as the “Nifty Needleworkers” knit every Wednesday with their work often benefitting area charities and causes.

Now, the knitters are aiming to share their craft with the next generation.

A group of women from the Wednesday afternoon knitters stay at the Gibson Gallery and teach local children how to knit later in the day, with three children currently enrolled in the classes.

The classes are wrapping up their first four-week stretch, with another four-week schedule of classes to immediately follow.

“We just decided we’d like to teach some young (people) how to knit,” said Judy Bondy. “We thought it would be a good art for them to have.”

Charlotte Bondy, Eden Pare and Aria Pare enjoy a recent knitting class for children at the Gibson Gallery.

Bondy said the classes are free and open to both girls and boys. They are aiming to get children ages 7-12 years of age.

“We think it’s going well,” said Bondy, who was teaching last week’s class with Jeannie Galt and Liz Campbell. “We have three enthusiastic young knitters. We’re happy with the numbers right now. They are enthusiastic about what we’re doing.”

The classes are free and the “Nifty Needleworkers” provide the needles and yarn, though the students can take them home to work on their knitting. Classes run Wednesdays at the Gibson Gallery from 4-5 p.m.

“It’s really fun,” said Charlotte Bondy, one of the young students in the class. “They make it really easy to learn. When I came here, it just came so clearly.”

The students said they have fun when they go to the gallery for the classes.

“Time flies when we do this a lot,” said Charlotte.

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