Essex County Heroes fundraiser held to sold out audience

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was the party of the year for the Essex County Heroes Athletic Club.

The organization’s annual fundraiser was held Saturday night at the Fort Family Fun Centre (formerly the Verdi Club) with over 300 people coming in to not only have a good time, but to assist them as well. The Heroes is supported through Community Living Essex County, the Amherstburg Police Service and Essex OPP but raises its own funds including the proceeds from Saturday night.

“When we started out in 2004, we never expected it to grow like this,” said Michelle Jones-Rousseau, who co-founded the Heroes with Sgt. Mike Cox from the Amherstburg Police Service.

Luke Wheeler was presented the 2017 Robert Pillon Memorial Award during the Essex County Heroes Athletic Club’s annual dinner Saturday night at the Fort Family Fun Centre. From left: Pillon’s brothers Ron and Richard Pillon, Wheeler and Heroes co-founders Mike Cox and Michelle Jones-Rousseau.

Luke Wheeler was presented the 2017 Robert Pillon Memorial Award during the Essex County Heroes Athletic Club’s annual dinner Saturday night at the Fort Family Fun Centre. From left: Pillon’s brothers Ron and Richard Pillon, Wheeler and Heroes co-founders Mike Cox and Michelle Jones-Rousseau.

Jones-Rousseau said it has become an important part of people’s lives as not only do the athletes enjoy the weekly outing, but the coaches do as well.

“This is something we are all very proud of,” she said.

The Heroes continue to operate a basketball program for people with intellectual disabilities Wednesday evenings at General Amherst High School in the fall, winter and spring and now does the same at Essex District High School Tuesday evenings under the direction of OPP Const. Sean MacKinnon and Debbie Alexander. There is also a baseball program at the Libro Centre in the summer.

Jones-Rousseau said there are so many important parts of the Essex County Heroes, adding the volunteers and business community as well. She said people step up to help the organization, with Cox adding the “business community has supported us year-after-year.” Cox encouraged those in attendance at the fundraiser to look at the list of supporters and frequent those businesses.

There have also been other fundraisers that have been recognized, with Jones-Rousseau honouring her brother Terry and his wife Lisa for opening their home for a family cookoff last November. That event raised over $30,000 for the Heroes. Jones-Rousseau noted her niece Mackie shares her birthday and that event also is a great help to the Heroes.

Over 300 people attended the Essex County Heroes dinner at the Fort Fun Centre March 4.

Over 300 people attended the Essex County Heroes dinner at the Fort Fun Centre March 4.

The 2017 Robert Pillon Memorial Award was also presented with that award given to the Heroes athlete that shows dedication and commitment to the program. This year’s recipient was Luke Wheeler, with Wheeler being given credit for how much he has improved his sportsmanship during his time with Heroes. Wheeler has grown to enjoy the program so much that he attends both the Tuesday and Wednesday basketball nights.

Wheeler was excited by his award victory.

“I didn’t know I was going to win,” he said. “I didn’t know who was going to win it.”

Wheeler said he was honoured by the award, adding he enjoys everything about the Heroes program including the ability to make new friends.

“I go on both nights every week,” he stated. “I love all the coaches.”

Eva Penner-Banman and Louis Robidoux dance  during the Essex County Heroes fundraiser Saturday night at the Fort Family Fun Centre in Amherstburg.

Eva Penner-Banman and Louis Robidoux dance
during the Essex County Heroes fundraiser Saturday night at the Fort Family Fun Centre in Amherstburg.

Greetings and congratulations were brought from Community Living Essex County and Amherstburg police, with both organizations recognizing the many volunteers it takes to present the Essex County Heroes program.

“This program is so important to this community,” acknowledged police chief Tim Berthiaume. “This partnership could not take place without the volunteers.”

The Jones family as well as the work of Jones-Rousseau and Cox was also recognized.

“This fundraiser is very important to the program,” added Berthiaume.

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