Essex County Heroes

Essex County Heroes wrap up year with Robert Pillon Memorial Award presentations

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Essex County Heroes celebrated the 2017-18 season in a little different fashion than what they are used to, but no one was complaining.

Instead of the dinner they usually have, the athletic club for people with intellectual disabilities had a carnival-type party Saturday night at The Fort Fun Centre. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Robert Pillon Memorial Award, given to the Heroes’ athlete that demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship and dedication to the program, with two people getting it this year.

As the Heroes now has basketball programs running Tuesday evenings during the fall, winter and spring in Essex as well as the regular Wednesday night basketball program in Amherstburg, an award was given to a person from each town. The Amherstburg award was given to Peter Novelletto while the Essex award went to Spencer Tapping.

The Essex County Heroes held their carnival-themed party Saturday night at the Fort Fun Centre. One of the highlights was the presentations of the Robert Pillon Memorial Award. From left: Heroes co-founder Michelle Jones-Rousseau, Amherstburg award winner Peter Novelletto, Richard Pillon, Ron Pillon, Sean MacKinnon, Essex award winner Spencer Tapping and Debbie Alexander.

Michelle Jones-Rousseau, who founded the Heroes 15 years ago with Sgt. Mike Cox of the Amherstburg Police Service, said the new format appears to have worked.

“It seems to be a big hit so far,” she said. “We didn’t have the numbers we expected at first but we ended up selling out. Everyone is happy.”

A sell-out for the carnival-type party, which was held in the Fort’s outdoor pavilion, is about 200, Jones-Rousseau stated, down from the 300 the dinner usually held but no one was complaining. She said the event is more to generate awareness for the Heroes and not so much as a fundraiser.

“It’s something different. Usually we have it in March,” she said. “If nothing else, we love the opportunity to have a big party. It’s more about us reaching out there and being involved with the community.”

The band Bigg Wiggle performed at the Essex County Heroes’ carnival party at the Fort Fun Centre June 23.

The 15th season for the Essex County Heroes program starts in October with the party seeing the Robert Pillon Memorial Award being presented for the tenth time. The program was formerly known as the Amherstburg Heroes but changed the name when the basketball program expanded to Essex a few years ago.

The basketball program saw over 100 athletes participate overall between Essex District High School and General Amherst High School. The Heroes are sponsored by the Amherstburg Police Service, Essex OPP and Community Living Essex County.

Const. Sean MacKinnon, community safety officer with Essex OPP, said the Essex basketball night has grown substantially from when it first started.

“In Essex, we started with a small group,” he stated. “It’s pretty much tripled in size.”

Jenna Bondy and Rachael Wheeler play one of the carnival games at the Essex County Heroes carnival night June 23.

Debbie Alexander, who also helps run the Essex basketball night, added some people like a smaller group as the Amherstburg basketball night is larger. However, she said there are those who go both nights.

The Heroes have also teamed with Group Hug Apparel to hold hip hop classes in Kingsville. However, a lack of volunteers killed the baseball program at the Libro Centre this year.

“We had a lot of disappointed people who couldn’t play baseball this year,” said Jones-Rousseau.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” added MacKinnon.

The weekly basketball nights resume in October but the Heroes will be asking people to come out and help, as more volunteers means a safer time for all. MacKinnon said everyone from high school students looking for volunteer hours to adults looking to give back are welcome at both locations.

For more information, contact Jones-Rousseau at 519-791-3302 or michelle@communitylivingessex.org. People can also contact Cox at 519-736-8559 or mcox@amherstburgpolice.ca or Alexander at debbiea@communitylivingessex.org.

Essex County Heroes seeking volunteers, planning June 23 event

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Essex County Heroes is in need of some new volunteers.

The athletic club – which is run in cooperation with the Amherstburg Police Service, Essex OPP and Community Living Essex County for those with intellectual disabilities – needs volunteers to not only help out with its upcoming “Heroes Carnival” but also with the program itself. The basketball season has wrapped up, and the baseball season looks to be cancelled due to a lack of volunteers.

“We’ve had a lot of support, but we’ve also had a lot of people come and go,” explained Michelle Jones-Rousseau, who founded the Heroes with Sgt. Mike Cox of the Amherstburg Police Service.

Jones-Rousseau said they have had volunteers such as T.J. Laframboise and Jarrod Manherz, who started when they were in Grade 9 and still do it now that they have gone through their post-secondary education.

“We only have one volunteer that is still with us from Day 1,” said Jones-Rousseau, with that being Tina LeBlanc. “We need fresh blood and we need more volunteers.”

The Essex County Heroes gather for a group photo at one of their final basketball nights of the 2017-18 season. The Heroes is seeking new volunteers to help support the club.

Cox acknowledged that “we’ve got fantastic people coming out” but they need more.

“The athletes keep coming out and the needs keep getting greater and greater,” he said. “We need more bodies.”

The Essex County Heroes, which runs Tuesday night basketball at Essex District High School and Wednesday night basketball at General Amherst High School, has now expanded further. They have hip hop dance classes in Kingsville thanks to a partnership with Group Hug Apparel and plan to start swimming classes in Leamington.

“We’re always expanding,” said Jones-Rousseau. “We want to keep it growing. I’m excited about how far this has come in 14 years.”

John Cooper takes a shot during a recent basketball night at General Amherst High School. Basketball has wrapped up for the season but returns in October.

Jones-Rousseau said the “Heroes Carnival” will be June 23 at The Fort Fun Centre, specifically in the “Bunker” outdoor pavilion. She said they have taken the Robert Pillon Memorial Dinner and turned it into a carnival format.

The presentation of the annual Robert Pillon Memorial Award will be that evening. There will also be multiple food stations, the band Bigg Wiggle and other activities. Food stations will be open 5-8 p.m.

“We expect to sell over 300 tickets,” she said. “The Fort is very generous to us.”

“It’s going to be a party atmosphere,” added Cox. “It will be a fun night where people can come and enjoy.”

Jones-Rousseau said their members have been saying “loud and clear they want a party.”

Essex County Heroes athlete Jaclyn Hertel (centre) stands with volunteers Sylvain Default, Francois Default, TJ Laframboise and Jarrod Manherz during a recent Wednesday night basketball session at General Amherst High School. The Heroes needs more volunteers as they have a June 23 “Heroes Carnival” coming up as well as more volunteers for next season.

Tickets for the fundraiser are available at Channel Resource Centre (260 Bathurst St.), the Towne Shoppe, the Amherstburg police station, The Fort Fun Centre and Community Living Essex County’s office at 372 Talbot St. North in Essex.

For more information on the “Heroes Carnival” or to volunteer, contact Jones-Rousseau at 519-791-3302 or michelle@communitylivingessex.org. People can also contact Cox through the police station at 519-736-8559 or mcox@amherstburgpolice.ca.

Heroes’ baseball season underway after wrapping up basketball season

 

By RTT Staff

 

The Essex County Heroes has started its annual baseball season after completing the basketball portion of the program recently.

The Heroes met up with officers from Essex OPP last week at Essex District High School for a basketball game as part of National Access Awareness Week. The week also included a basketball season-ending pizza party at the Fort Fun Centre in Amherstburg.

Michelle Jones-Rousseau, who co-founded the Heroes with Sgt. Mike Cox of the Amherstburg Police Service, was happy with how the year went.

The Essex County Heroes recently went head-to-head with the Essex County OPP in a friendly basketball game.

The Essex County Heroes recently went head-to-head with the Essex County OPP in a friendly basketball game.

“It was a very successful year,” she said. “We had a lot of new faces. We’ve grown so much.”

The Heroes’ basketball program was in Essex for the second straight year, the first at Essex District High School. The Essex component of the program is overseen by OPP officer Sean MacKinnon and Debbie Alexander. It has been roughly a decade at General Amherst High School.

“(Essex) has doubled in size,” said Jones-Rousseau.

There is about 100 people between both sites who participate in Heroes.

There are new athletes that regularly want to join the program and the growth in both towns show the people with disabilities still want opportunities to play sports.

“It just goes to show there is a need out there for recreational activities,” said Jones-Rousseau.

Kyle Jones takes a shot during recent game action in Essex.

Kyle Jones takes a shot during recent game action in Essex.

There is a “large turnover in volunteers,” she added, as students get their volunteer hours but as they get older, work commitments come into play and new volunteers are needed. She pointed out people don’t have to come every week to volunteer.

“For the Heroes, everyone is looking forward to baseball,” said Jones-Rousseau.

Baseball is held Wednesday nights in the indoor sports field at the Libro Centre starting at 6:30 p.m.

Athletes with the Heroes show a lot of personal growth, she added.

“They’ve got the confidence they are good players and they enjoy the exercise,” said Jones-Rousseau.

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.

Essex County Heroes annual fundraiser coming March 4

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The annual fundraiser to benefit the Essex County Heroes Athletic Club is right around the corner.

The Heroes will host the fundraising dinner March 4 at the Fort Fun Centre, formerly known as the Verdi Club. The Heroes was co-founded by Michelle Jones-Rousseau and Mike Cox and is a partnership between Community Living Essex County, the Amherstburg Police Service and the Essex OPP.

“We’ve added Norm Acklund Jr., who is an Elvis tribute artist,” said Jones-Rousseau. “He’s going to be the M.C.”

The band Bigg Wiggle will also be back “by popular demand,” said Jones-Rousseau.

One of the evening’s highlights will be the presentation of the Robert Pillon Memorial Award. That award, first presented in 2009, goes to the athlete that demonstrates outstanding sportsmanship and dedication to the program.

Robert Pillon, who was supported through CLEC, died Sept. 5, 2008 and was known for being active in the community. Last year’s award was won by Kate Chant.

The evening will also have a photo booth and raffle, with the local businesses and individuals encouraged to donate raffle prizes.

Proceeds from the chicken and pasta dinner go directly into the Essex County Heroes program. The program is free to participants.

“It’s a fun evening,” Jones-Rousseau said of the fundraiser. “It’s a party. It’s a fun event.”

Heroes - JPG

The Essex County Heroes has an estimated 100 athletes in total, said Jones-Rousseau. A recently formed Tuesday night group has about 25 athletes that play out of Essex District High School with the original Wednesday night group having about 60-70 athletes playing out of General Amherst High School. Sean MacKinnon, an OPP officer, and Debbie Alexander, a direct support worker with CLEC, run the Tuesday night program while Cox and Jones-Rousseau run the Wednesday night program.
Jones-Rousseau added there is a group of athletes who only play baseball during the summer months.

“This event and this club have been so successful because of the work of so many volunteers,” said Jones-Rousseau. “They put in a lot of time and dedication. The volunteers we have right now are the best. They just want to make this successful.”

Cox said there are now a lot of adult volunteers, as well as youth volunteers.

“We wouldn’t exist if the volunteers weren’t so committed,” said Cox. “Most of them don’t have a connection. They just enjoy giving back. Everyone has fun.”

The Heroes hopes to have even more people with intellectual disabilities and those who support them come out.
“We encourage as many people as we can to come out. The more the merrier,” said Cox.

The Heroes is a non-competitive environment and Cox said they want to keep it open to everyone at no cost.

Tickets for the March 4 fundraiser are $25 and are available at Channel Resource Centre (260 Bathurst St.), Community Living Essex County (372 Talbot. St. North in Essex), The Fort Fun Centre (689 Texas Road) and the Amherstburg police station (532 Sandwich St. S.). There will be 300 tickets available as Jones-Rousseau noted the full banquet hall will be used since renovations have not started on that portion of the building yet. She pointed out the restaurant portion of the facility is now open.

For more information, e-mail theheroes@email.com or through their Facebook page.