McGregor

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.

Alhambra helps those with disabilities have a Merry Christmas

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Alhambra, an organization that assists those with disabilities, got into the Christmas spirit last Saturday.

The McGregor-based chapter – Alhambra Garcia Caravan #230 – held its annual Christmas party at the Columbian Club Hall on Walker Road with about 207 people attending. That includes 138 people with disabilities plus their workers as well as volunteers.

Ray and Beth Renaud visit with Santa Claus at Alhambra Garcia Caravan’s Christmas party Dec. 9.

“This is an annual event,” explained Therese Barichello, grand commander of Alhambra Garcia Caravan #230. “It’s one of the most rewarding, joyful day for the holidays. These people don’t always have an opportunity to get out. They love parties. They love dancing. It’s a very worthwhile event.”

The Christmas event drew people mostly from around Essex County but some from Windsor also attended, Barichello stated. She added the gifts for those with disabilities came from the Tim Hortons in LaSalle and “they did a great job.”

Grant Leahy shares his Christmas wish list with Santa and receives a gift as well.

“Everyone likes coming forward and volunteering to help,” said Barichello. “I can’t explain how much I enjoy doing this. It gives me great joy and happiness. It’s better to give than to receive.”

Alhambra Garcia Caravan #230 helps various families in the county with accessibility aids and also hold various events and fundraisers throughout the year. Other than the annual Christmas party in McGregor, they hold an annual picnic at Co-An Park, a boating outing and a golf tournament, the latter being their largest fundraiser.

The organization have been holding Christmas parties in McGregor for the last 35 years.

For more information on Alhambra Garcia Caravan #230, visit www.facebook.com/garcia230 or call 519-726-6494. More information on the Alhambra organization can also be found at www.orderalhambra.org.

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 stclements@dol.ca 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.”

 

 

 

Farm Credit Canada assists WETRA in acquiring new tractor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) now has the funding for the acquisition of a new tractor.

WETRA was approved for one of 78 grants from Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) AgriSpirit Fund and received $25,000 to help fund the purchase of a new tractor for the McGregor facility. An official presentation was made last week.

Becky Mills, executive director at WETRA, thanked the two FCC officials that attended the announcement for the contribution to the tractor fund.

Sina Naebkhil from WETRA, Debra Wadia and Anne Baldo from Farm Credit Canada, and WETRA executive director conduct a cheque presentation in front of the old tractor WETRA is replacing. Farm Credit Canada’s AgriSpirit grant program is funding a new tractor to the tune of $25,000.

“As you know, no farm is complete without a tractor, the workhorse of the agricultural and maintenance aspects of running a rural operation,” said Mills. “Here at WETRA, horses are the modality for which our therapy services take place and it brings a whole other aspect of running our programs when caring for the therapy horses. Maintaining pastures, stalls, manure piles and riding areas as well as fertilizing, cutting and harvesting our 22 acres of hay is essential to sustaining optimal health within our herd and it becomes a full-time job in and of itself.”

Mills added that the tractor “will not side idle for more than a few hours a week” and noted that it is absolutely necessary for WETRA’s operation.

“We simply cannot survive without a fully functional, updated tractor,” said Mills.

Mills added that WETRA has been providing services to people with disabilities since 1963 and thanks to the support of funders like FCC, “we are able to continue with our mission and ensure that those in need will have the opportunity to experience life on a horse farm and feel good about the environment in which they are warmly received by such gentle animals.”

FCC was represented by senior district manager Debra Wadia and relationship manager Anne Baldo. Wadia said the AgriSpirit fund has been around since 2004. In 2016, a total of $1 million was distributed through grants across Canada with that number upped to $1.5 million in 2017 in recognition of Canada’s 150th birthday.

Wadia said FCC has a rating system of how to look at grant applications and WETRA “hit all of them.”

Awarding grants to organizations such as WETRA “is the best part of my job,” Baldo added.

The FCC AgriSpirit Fund awards between $5,000 and $25,000 for community improvement projects. There were 1,214 applications received this year with proceeds going to rural, small town Canadian projects. Over the past 14 years, the FCC AgriSpirit Fund has supported almost 1,100 projects, an investment of more than $12 million.