fundraiser

“Addy’s Angels” hold fundraiser for four-year-old with mitochondrial disease

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Four-year-old Addy Weith and her mom Lisa came to Amherstburg Sunday on the weekend where Addy was the guest of honour.

A group of volunteers known as “Addy’s Angel’s,” which include Addy’s grandmother Mickey Dinunzio and great-aunt Heather Amlin, presented a fundraiser for “Addy’s Journey.” The Sunday fundraiser at the Columbus Community Hall raised money to pay for a bus to go Hudsonville, Michigan Aug. 5 for a large fundraiser there. Hudsonville is where the Weith family, including Addy’s twin sister Norah and dad Eric, live.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Lisa. “I saw the parking lot and thought ‘oh my goodness.’ It’s pretty special.”

Lisa is originally from Amherstburg and is a graduate of General Amherst High School. She said it was great to be back in her hometown, reconnect with people she hasn’t seen in a while, and know it is all to help her daughter.

Addy’s Angels, a local group raising money to help four-year-old Addy Weith, held a fundraiser last Sunday. (Photo by Danica Skakavac)

There was a hospital stay for Addy a few weeks ago that Lisa described as “rough,” as Addy was in intensive care for a few days. She recovered from that and the family hopes she stays in good health for a while longer.

Mitochondrial disease, also known as Leigh Syndrome, is a severe neurological disorder characterized by progressive loss of mental and movement abilities. The disease typically results in death in two to three years after diagnosis due to respiratory failure. As Addy and her family deal with that, they are comforted by the fact there are fundraisers such as the one Sunday and the one in Hudsonville Aug. 5. Another recent event for Addy and her family was a special day on a trolley with her favourite TV character Daniel Tiger.

Dinunzio said details will be forthcoming in the foreseeable future about how people can get on the bus and visit with the family in Michigan in August. She said they were ready for over 100 people last Sunday.

“It’s a small town with a huge heart,” she said of Amherstburg.

“Everything was donated, even the hall,” said Amlin.

Amlin pointed out the Weith family has a great support system on both sides of the border.

“It’s just incredible the amount of people who are involved,” added Lisa. “Saying thank you doesn’t seem big enough for everything we’ve been getting.”

For more information on the Aug. 5 event in Hudsonville, Michigan, e-mail heather_amlin@yahoo.ca or brouwer.1@hotmail.com. People can also call Amlin at 519-713-9293.

House Youth Centre presents “Spa Day”

 

 

By Danica Skakavac

 

The House Youth Centre has held many different events over the years, including their annual Spa Day Fundraiser.

For the fifth year in a row, the House opened its doors to welcome anyone interested in a day filled with relaxation. The recent event was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a $30 participation charge, which covered all three different spa services. A $10 walk-in fee was also offered, for those who wished to just shop the vendors and enjoy the food.

Besides some massages, the House offered an ice cream and coffee bar (food is catered by Coffee and Cream), live entertainment (performed by Will Hawksworth), free goodie bags and the chance to shop at vendors promoting local businesses.

The House Youth Centre recently presented their annual “Spa Day” fundraiser.

Additionally, those who attended had the chance to enter in a raffle and win many available prizes. The planning of the event began back in early January, with many hours from staff and volunteers put towards organizing it.

All the funds earned go towards the House of Shalom’s youth program, which is weekly peer mentoring, and will cover the operational cost of the program’s supplies and staffing fees.

“We’re hoping to just have a relaxing and pampering day,” says Ashley Marchand, activities co-ordinator at The House. “We really target towards daughters and moms, so we really push it as a Mother’s Day gift.”

Marchand went on to say that she hears a lot that mothers really just want that chance to relax and not have to do anything, which is what the Spa Day Fundraiser was really geared towards.

“The best part about volunteering is the respect they give us,” says Carrie Deslippe from Above and Beyond, one of the massage therapy clinics that took part.

With two other clinics giving their time to the event and countless other local businesses, the fifth annual Spa Day Fundraiser at the House Youth Centre was a success and will be anticipated for more years down the road.

 

Local 19-year-old heading on mission trip to Fiji this summer

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A 19-year-old parishioner is heading on a mission trip to Fiji later this year and held a fundraiser at her church to help send her there.

Jocelyn Harris organized a “Footsteps for Fiji” fundraiser at Amherstburg Community Church (ACC) with approximately 60 people in attendance. Harris helps lead children’s worship and hosts community event at ACC but the fundraiser was for her trip.

“I’m going to Fiji to help build a two-room dormitory for the youth group down there,” she explained, as she is part of the Teen Missions group. “I really feel God was telling me ‘this is your summer.’”

Harris will be one of 28 missionaries to Nada, Fiji, where they shall also perform evangelical work. That will include reaching out to the community through music, drama and more.

Jocelyn Harris (centre) recently presented a fundraiser at Amherstburg Community Church for her mission trip to Fiji this summer. Pictured with her are youth pastor Kerrington Sweeney (left) and Myrna Bustard (right), wife of Pastor John Bustard.

The trip lasts from June 16 to Aug. 3, with Harris first heading to Orlando, Florida for a two-week “boot camp” before heading to Fiji.

“This trip will also help shape the missionary’s spiritual maturity and develop goals for our community when we head back from our debrief,” she said.

The “Footsteps for Fiji” fundraiser last Saturday night saw a buffet-style meal as well as entertainment provided by other parishioners from within Amherstburg Community Church. The fundraiser resulted in $2,347 being raised. Harris needs a total of $6,350 to go on the trip and had raised approximately $700 prior to the fundraiser.

Harris said she has been wanting to do missionary work for a while but also has to focus on school. She attends St. Clair College where she is currently focusing on liberal arts before she furthers her education in early childhood education.

After talking with a friend, Harris was pointed in the direction of Teen Missions and “I signed up and I got invited.”

Amanda Legault and Mitchell Mullin sing during Jocelyn Harris’ “Footsteps for Fiji” fundraiser at Amherstburg Community Church.

When she completed her education, Harris said she hopes to keep traveling and helping people.

“I do plan on going on more mission trips,” she said.

Harris added she is has been an Amherstburg resident “for a limited time,” but “I take pride in knowing I live in such a beautiful, unique community.”

To donate to her cause, Harris can be contacted via e-mail at Jocelyn.m.harris004@outlook.com or by cell at 226-280-5404.

 

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 www.gofundme.com and search “Help Phoenix with Medical Expenses.” The direct link is https://www.gofundme.com/kbfbv6-help-phoenix-with-medical-expenses.

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 karidufour@hotmail.com. 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 www.gofundme.com and search “Help Phoenix with Medical Expenses.” The direct link is https://www.gofundme.com/kbfbv6-help-phoenix-with-medical-expenses.