Michelle Jones-Rousseau

Jones Cookoff raises thousands for Essex County Heroes



By Ron Giofu


The 6th annual Jones Cookoff was held Sunday and the Essex County Heroes will benefit big time.

The cookoff, held at the home of Terry and Lisa Jones, raised thousands for the Heroes, an athletic club that started in Amherstburg 14 years ago for people with intellectual disabilities. A final total was not known as of press time, but it is expected to far exceed the $30,000 raised last year.

The Heroes are a partnership between Community Living Essex County and the Amherstburg Police Service with Michelle Jones-Rousseau and Mike Cox being co-founders. Jones-Rousseau said she wanted her son Kyle to be able to play basketball and the idea grew from there.

The cookoff began as a way to celebrate the birthday of Terry and Lisa’s daughter Mackie and it now raises thousands annually.

“We have amazing support,” said Jones-Rousseau. “From my perspective, I am so appreciative of all the friends that have gone along with this and helped out.”

Heros co-founder Mike Cox (below) dressed as Superman while co-founder Michelle Jones-Rousseau (with brother Terry, above), was also in superhero attire at last Sunday’s cookoff.

The cookoff sees friends, family and business associates of the Jones family gather, cook over an open fire and serve it to the hundreds that attend. Everything from chili, soup, crepes, perogies, “Heroes Gyros” and more were served Sunday.

People dressed in costume and got into the spirit of the event.

“They jumped in and supported the event. They went along with it,” said Jones-Rousseau.

The Essex County Heroes have had an “amazing year,” she added, as not only do they have basketball weekly at both General Amherst High School and Essex District High School, but they also have teamed with Group Hug Apparel to offer hip hop classes in Kingsville and swimming in Leamington.

“This is all from the donations from the Jones annual cookoff,” said Jones-Rousseau. “Everyone is very enthusiastic to make plans on how to get our club even bigger.

The Heroes have over 160 members, she added.

“We’re growing all the time,” she said.

Terry Jones added that he and Lisa are pleased to help and noted they have a lot of fun doing it.

“It’s for a great cause,” he said. “There is a lot of great friends and family. You can’t ask for a better deal.”

Numerous businesses and companies helped sponsor the event and make donations, something he said they are very grateful for.

Jones, who is Jones-Rousseau’s brother, also noted that everyone gets into the fun of it, with some dressing up in costumes. He called the volunteers with the Heroes “angels” and said they go above and beyond to help out.

“It’s all about helping to support them,” he said.

For more information on the Heroes, visit the group’s Facebook page.

Career Compass team helps Joe Meloche Ford with canned food drive



By Ron Giofu


The canned food drive at Joe Meloche Ford benefited St. Joseph School, but received a helping hand from another area organization.

Community Living Essex County’s Career Compass joined the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s (ODEN) provincial campaign to promote Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) and as part of it, helped Joe Meloche Ford with its can drive.

Joe Meloche Ford assists Career Compass by employing people with an intellectual disability, noted Career Compass team member Michelle Jones-Rousseau.

“They are an incredible and we want to give back to their cause,” said Jones-Rousseau.

The Career Compass team, a group under the Community Living Essex County umbrella, aided Joe Meloche Ford with a recent canned drive.

Joe Meloche Ford held its can drive during the month of October in partnership as part of the “WE Scare Hunger” campaign to assist food banks in local communities serving people who require food assistance. Canned goods and non-perishable food items were also be dropped off at Community Living Essex County’s four resource centers, including Channel Resource Centre in Amherstburg until Oct. 31. From there, all goods were taken by Career Compass team members to Joe Meloche Ford where they were collected with other canned goods and non-perishable food items before being delivered to River Canard.

“We’re trying to highlight an employer that helps us,” explained Derek Roy, manager of Community Living supports and leader of Career Compass.

To learn more about DEAM, be sure to like Community Living Essex County’s Career Compass Facebook page (Facebook.com/CLECareerCompass) and follow them on Twitter (@CLECareerCompass).

For more information about the services available to people with an intellectual disability and their families, contact Community Living Essex County at 519-776-6483 ext. 211, stop by the main office located at 372 Talbot St. North in Essex or e-mail droy@communitylivingessex.org.

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.