Massive crowd turns out to support Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon and family



By Ron Giofu


Approximately 425 people jammed the Columbian Club Hall in McGregor Sunday evening to support Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon and his family.

The surprise of the night was the arrival of Phoenix himself, along with his mother Betty-Joe. Phoenix who was originally hospitalized last September in London before being moved to Toronto in December, made his first visit back to Essex County for the fundraiser.

Both Phoenix and Betty-Joe’s return to the area was short-lived, as they had to be back at the Bloorfield Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto later Sunday night. Phoenix went to bed the night of Sept. 26, 2017 and woke up shortly thereafter unable to move. While doctors thought he may have suffered a pair of strokes, he is currently being treated for Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.

Phoenix, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Western Secondary School, said planning for his attendance at the fundraiser began a couple of weeks ago.

A fundraiser was held Sunday at the Columbian Club Hall in McGregor for Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon and Betty-Joe MacDonald being able to attend. The event raised
approximately $17,000.

“I’m very happy,” he said, regarding being able to attend. “It’s unbelievable to see my friends and family.”

Many in attendance, including members of the family, wore “Team Phoenix” T-shirts. A video was shown on the big screens in the hall showing Phoenix’s progress as he has gone from limited to no movement to the ability to move some of his extremities.

The experience has been “a crazy roller coaster ride,” he said.

Phoenix still is unable to walk and moves via a wheelchair. Early estimates on his permanent return home are June but he will still need an accessible vehicle and home along with other expenses associated with his treatments.

As of Monday morning, the fundraiser topped $17,000.

Betty-Joe said they are still not sure what the final outcome will be. She thanked the community for its outpouring of support.

“It’s very overwhelming. Amazing, actually,” said Betty-Joe. “This is what it means to be from a small town.”

Calling herself a “pretty positive” person, Betty-Joe said it has been a miracle to watch Phoenix progress as he has.

“We just want to say thank you to everyone,” she said.

A packed house at the Columbian Community Hall in McGregor helped support Phoenix MacDonald-Gagnon and his family Sunday evening. The event raised $17,000.

The Columbian Squires in McGregor made a $2,000 donation to the Bloorfield Rehabilitation Centre’s foundation as part of the fundraiser. The money will help fund the family’s expenses while there.

Larry Bezaire, one of the organizers of the fundraiser, said they were originally planning for 200 or so to turn out.

“We got 400,” he said, fighting back emotion. “I want to thank everyone.”

Due to the amount of donations they received, the pasta dinner was presented with very little expenses as even much of the food was donated.

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

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

SACU holds sold out fundraiser at Shooters



By Jolene Perron


A local retired teacher involved with Save African Child Uganda has held a sold out fundraiser at Shooters, the proceeds from which will go towards completing a classroom in Uganda.

Ingrid Heugh, who retired as a teacher from Amherstburg Public School, went to the Ugandan village of Buwando in late November and early December with SACU. She explained the organization was begun with a 19-year-old Ugandan man named Ivan Nsera who approached a retired teacher from Canada, Geri Sutts while she was in Uganda helping another organization.

“Ivan was brought to this village as a young boy to be raised by his grandmother, Jaja, when he lost both of his parents to AIDS,” said Heugh. “He witnessed how his loving grandmother would help abandoned and abused children in the village and take them into her home. Ivan never forgot where he came from even though he now lives in the city, Kampala with his family.”

SACU holds a wide range of fundraisers, from pasta dinner, to winter galas, murder mysteries, golf outings and more. Heugh said she thought she would throw in a totally different fundraiser and give a comedy night a try. She said Leo and Diane Dufour have been “awesome to work with.”

“I remember Leo back in high school he was funny then and continues to make me laugh hysterically,” said Heugh. “I have attended some of his shows and recently attended a Komedy Korner Fundraiser that was held by CAS which gave me the idea.”

Ingrid Heugh, a retired teacher from Amherstburg Public School held a Komedy Korner fundraiser with Leo and Diane Dufour for Save African Child Uganda (SACU) at Shooter’s Roadhouse in Amherstburg. The event sold out and was a huge success for the organization.

Heugh had a waiting list of people who wanted to be called in case someone purchased a ticket and couldn’t attend. She said she wishes she could “stretch the walls” and make the building larger to accommodate the support she received from the community. The fundraiser brought the organization over $2,000 and Heugh said it was “the easiest fundraiser SACU has ever planned thanks to Leo and Diane Dufour.”

Heugh explained the money raised from the event will go towards finishing the classroom she started while she was in Uganda. She left when the first phase was completed, and she hopes the second and third phases will be done by the time the students return to school on February.

“We have built a shelter for abandoned and abused children, built classrooms, hired and paid for caring teachers and shelter moms,” said Heugh. “We also provide breakfast and lunch for all of our school children and provide medical if children become ill. The children in Buwundo and the nearby villages had very little hope for their future. Their parents and guardians don’t have enough money to send their children to a government school or the neighbouring schools. Most of the schools require the students to pay tuition, purchase their uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and even need to pay for their government exams, which we fundraise for our SACU students.”

The committee consists of Heugh, Sutts, Betty Westfall, Cheryl Rudgers, Kathy Vriesen, Margie Anson and Elaine Johnson. Heugh said they work hard to plan fundraisers and make decisions about what is important for the children and their futures.

Over the years, SACU has grown from 65 students when Heugh got involved in 2012. This past year, they have grown to accommodate 145 students.

“2018 is an exciting and challenging time for SACU with 15 young children starting up in February and we have our first 10 students from P7 graduate from Elementary,” said Heugh. “They wrote their government exam in November and are now waiting for their results which will determine which high school they will be attending. The students understand the importance of studying hard and listening attentively to their teachers to perform at their best. They truly are grateful for what we have put into place and provided for them, so they can have a brighter future.”

Local dancers raise money with hot chocolate for W.E. Care for Kids



By Jolene Perron


Catz Meow dancers Ava Argoselo, her sister Lily and her friend Hailey Gwyther came together to set up a table outside their dance studio to sell hot chocolate for a cause.

“Ava always asked, ‘mom can I make bracelets and sell them?’ because she sees other kids doing stuff like that,” explained Argoselo’s mother, Maria.

Maria explained, it’s very time consuming to do something like making and selling bracelets. When she heard in the summer about W.E. Care for Kids doing the lemonade brigade, she was excited to learn that because of that success, W.E. Care for Kids is carrying on with doing a hot chocolate brigade. Maria thought holding the event at their dance studio, The Catz Meow would give them a small target audience and it wouldn’t be too overwhelming for her.

Maria went down to the hospital and picked up the starter kit, and then all they had to do was come up with a plan to execute their fundraiser – and decide what toppings they would include.

Megan Regnier, Lily Argoselo, Ava Argoselo and Hailey Gwyther (left to right) stand in front of their hot chocolate stand outside of The Catz Meow dance studio, waiting for visitors to buy their hot chocolate and choose from a wide selection of toppings. (Submitted photo)

“We took dry packets and taped a candy cane to it for people to take home as well,” said Maria. “She has always wanted to do something to give back and this was an ideal opportunity where part of the work was already done for us and tips that were provided to us. It was a good first round in organizing something for her to do.”

Argoselo, her sister and a few friends would periodically go around to the front of the Catz Meow Dance Studio building to wave their sign about selling hot chocolate for W.E. Care for Kids at the road. They even had three cars pull in specifically from seeing their sign.

“I think the day went really good, we had quite a few customers and we raised a total of $71 which we hope will help a lot of kids,” said Argoselo. “It was really fun having some friends there and it’s for a good cause. I might just do it again.”


St. Clement Parish fundraising concert raises over $10,000


By Jolene Perron


To preserve St. Clement Church’s crumbling mortar, the choir took upon themselves to raise money through a one-time concert.

Since 1880, the parish in McGregor has offered Holy Mass for its parishioners. As the congregation grew, the construction of the present church took place in 1903. According to the dioceses of London website, St. Clement’s exterior walls are constructed of stone blocks which they said are likely from the local quarry.

“The mortar itself is crumbling so we need to have it replaced and that’s costing us quite a bit of money so we’re doing everything we can to fundraise through different events,” explained choir leader Annette Barron.

Barron explained that she suggested a concert last spring after many inquiries from parishioners about the choir recording a CD. Due to copyright, a CD wasn’t doable, however a concert was the next best option. She took the songs they normally do, and added harmonies and “rejigged” the songs to create a repertoire for the choir to entertain the parishioners.

“We took it five steps further than they are normally used to, and they hated me for it at the beginning but they got whipped into shape and they sound awesome now,” said Barron.

A group of choir singers from St. Clements Parish performed a concert recently to raise money for repairs to the mortar, which is currently crumbling away.

Barron has been in the choir since 1990. She explained they sing every week at mass all year-round, as well as at special masses for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Typically they only hold formal practices as needed, as they are all volunteers.

The response and support from the parish Barron said, has been overwhelming. From parishioners volunteering their time to help sell tickets, put up flyers, promote the concert and actually work the event taking ticket money and donations, Barron said they “responded like gang busters,” ready to help. A crew of them even came out the evening prior to set up a platform on the altar to accommodate the choir.

With corporate sponsors, the choir raised $10,000 and counting with people still coming in with donations. They are continuing to raise money through the Columbian Hall in McGregor, which also had a sold out dinner over that same weekend with an attendance of more than 300 people.

For those wishing to make further donations, they should contact St. Clement Church at during office hours, Tuesday to Thursday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. or at 519-726-5127.

“I’m extremely happy that I can do something to actually help contribute to the continuity of our church,” said Barron. “A lot of churches, parishes kind of die out but this one, it’s a small parish but we seem to remain vibrant and strong and viable, that makes it hard to close it up. We always seem to pull through no matter what comes out way with the building.”