Mike Cox

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.

General Amherst, Amherstburg police square off in charity hockey game

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The General Amherst Bulldogs boys hockey team and the Amherstburg police hockey team squared off in a game during the holidays, but the big winners were Ontario Special Olympics.

The charity game saw the Bulldogs win on the scoreboard but no one seemed to care about the final result afterword as proceeds went to the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which in turn helps support Special Olympics.

Sgt. Mike Cox said it was the reintroduction of the charity game with General Amherst, noting that players who now play for the police team once played against them when they were in high school. He hoped it would be the first of two charity hockey games before the season is over.

The General Amherst Bulldogs and Amherstburg police hockey teams gather for a group photo following their charity hockey game for the Torch Run Dec. 22. The Torch Run helps support Ontario Special Olympics.

“I’m hoping to play the Admirals at the end of their season,” said Cox. “Hopefully it will be in June after they win a championship.”

The game against the Bulldogs featured several father/son combinations on the Amherstburg police team, including Don and Gage Brown, Chris and Luke Renaud as well as Joe and Kyle Shaw. Joe Shaw is usually an assistant coach with the Bulldogs while Kyle is a former OHL player. Another former OHL player, Zack Percy, also suited up for the police team.

General Amherst head coach Pat Garrett said his team had the opportunity to participate in the charity game and they seized it.

“Obviously, it’s a fantastic cause,” Garrett said of Ontario Special Olympics. “It’s a cause we all believe in.”

Garrett credited General Amherst principal Melissa DeBruyne for getting the game back on the Bulldogs’ schedule. DeBruyne, who played up for the police team, said she was glad to do it.

“It’s just about giving back to Special Olympics,” she said. “It was an opportunity to bring back a past tradition.”

The final day before the Christmas break for the school also saw a staff-student volleyball game and the staff prepare breakfast for the students.

“It’s about bringing the community in,” she said. “It’s the spirit of giving. It was a lot of fun.”

Sgt. Mike Cox drops the puck between General Amherst boys hockey team captain Josh DiCarlo (left) and principal Melissa DeBruyne, who suited up for the police team at the recent charity hockey game.

DeBruyne said the school received donations from Maria’s Restaurant, Meloche’s No Frills, Sobeys, parent council and teachers.

As for her playing for the police team, DeBruyne said she enjoys playing hockey whenever she gets a chance.

“I’ve got such a passion for hockey,” she said. “Every time I get on the ice, I love it.”

Amherstburg Police Service recognizes officers, civilians… and a dog

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Amherstburg Police Service’s annual awards night honoured those with two legs as well as those with four last Tuesday night.

The awards dinner, held at Riccardo’s Italian Restaurant, saw four officers, two civilians, an organization and – for the first time ever – a dog recognized as part of the night.

A Citizen Recognition Award went to Macie, a golden retriever owned by the Morden family. Macie went outside through her doggie door the morning of Aug. 19 and noticed something strange. She began barking loud enough so her owners would check what was going on.

The winners of awards at the Amherstburg Police Service awards dinner gather for a group photo. From left: Chief Tim Berthiaume (with Grant Morden and Macie), Jodi Ouellette and Joanna Conrad from the Essex County Diversion Program, town fleet mechanic Randy Riediger, Pauline Gemmell, Sr. Const. Margaret O’Brien and Sgt. Mike Cox. Absent are Sgt. Don Brown (25-year service award) and Sr. Const. Sean Gazdig (10-year service award).

“When Julie Morden looked out the window, she noticed that her vehicle door was open,” said Const. Steve Owen, the community services officer and master of ceremonies for the award presentations. “As a result, police were contacted and within 15 minutes a male was arrested in the area with several stolen items located on him that had been taken from numerous vehicles in the area.”

Also honoured with a Citizen Recognition Award was Pauline Gemmell, who served on the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB).

The Community Partnership Award went to the Essex County Diversion Program. Youth justice case manager Jodi Ouellette (left) and executive director Joanna Conrad (right) accept the award from Chief Tim Berthiaume.

“During this time, the service has maintained a competitive budget while improving the look of our police vehicles and implementing new equipment such as less lethal shotguns, carbine rifles, and body cameras. The town was also one of the safest town’s in Canada during her tenure,” said Owen.

Chief Tim Berthiaume presents a Citizen Recognition Award to Pauline Gemmell.

The Essex County Diversion Program was honoured with the Community Partnership Award.

“The Essex County Diversion Program seeks to promote and foster a healthy community by providing timely and effective intervention with at-risk youth. For those who are not familiar with extrajudicial measures, it is a program that allows youth to avoid going to court and receiving a sentence, by taking responsibility for their actions and making amends for the wrongs that they have done, through methods such as rehabilitation, community service, paying for damages, and apologizing to those they have affected,” Owen stated. “They also offer outreach programs which act as a preventative strategy to educate youth on a variety of topics such as bullying, sexting, drugs abuse, and video game addictions to name a few. Youth Diversion is a strong partner of the Amherstburg Police service and the community of Amherstburg.”

Sr. Const. Margaret O’Brien receives a 25-year service award from Chief Tim Berthiaume.

Officers receiving long-service awards included Sr. Const. Sean Gazdig, who was recognized for ten years of service. Gazdig was unable to attend the dinner.

Gazdig began his policing career in 2005 with the London Police Service and was later hired in 2007 by the Amherstburg Police Service. He began working in general patrol and is now in the traffic enforcement unit. He is a trained police motorcycle operator and he acts as a coach officer to newly hired constables.

“Each year Sean participates as an instructor for annual firearms training for the officers of both the Amherstburg and Windsor police,” Owen added.

Two officers were recognized with 25-year service awards.

Chief Tim Berthiaume presents Sgt. Mike Cox (left) with a 30-year service award.

Sr. Const. Margaret O’Brien began her policing career with the Amherstburg Police Service in 1992. She is currently a detective in the criminal investigations division.

“Maggie has received training in interviewing and interrogation, search warrant writing, asset forfeiture, and is a certified property and evidence specialist to name a few of the assets she brings to the service,” Owen pointed out.

Sgt. Don Brown, who was also unable to attend the dinner, also began with the Amherstburg Police Service in 1992. His background includes being a patrol constable, marine operator, patrol sergeant and is now the detective sergeant in the criminal investigations division.

Randy Riediger (left) receives a Chief’s Award of Excellence from Chief Tim Berthiaume.

“Don has been trained in many areas including investigating offences against children, investigative interviewing and has been a trained breath technician,” said Owen.

Receiving a 30-year service award was Sgt. Mike Cox, who began his policing career in Amherstburg in 1987.

“Mike Cox was a community police officer before there was community policing. Mike has been a fixture with our local community living organization and with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics,” said Owen. “In 2004, Mike co-founded the Amherstburg Heroes, a basketball league for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Despite not seeking recognition, Mike has been recognized for his work by the community several times. Mike has received the Exemplary Service Medal, the Chief’s Award of Excellence, the Windsor Parade Corporations 911 Community Service Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the CanDo 150 Award of Distinction.”

Cox has been trained as a breath technician and coach officer to name a few of his specialties, Owen added. He has served in many roles including constable, patrol sergeant, operations sergeant, and has previously co-ordinated our auxiliary program.

Chief Tim Berthiaume recognizes Macie, a golden retriever, with a Canine Recognition Award. Holding Macie is one of her owners, Grant Morden.

The Chief’s Award of Excellence is described as “the highest award of the Amherstburg Police Service.” It is awarded to an individual, organization or institution that has made a significant contribution to the Amherstburg Police Service or the community.

Randy Riediger, a fleet mechanic with the town since 2004, was this year’s recipient and was described as “one of the hardest workers the town of Amherstburg has known.”

Owen stated “the doors at his garage are always cycling vehicles in and out and keeping our town vehicles and notably our police vehicles on the road. His relentless work ethic has allowed our police vehicles to remain in-house for service and allowed our operating budget to remain competitive and has saved money for the taxpayers.”

Riediger’s efforts assist the Amherstburg Police Service in doing its job, Owen added.

“When our residents call police for assistance and we show up, they just see the police car pull up and the police officer get out. What they don’t see are the people like Randy who keep our service operating effectively and efficiently,” said Owen.

Chief Tim Berthiaume said the awards night was created to honour officers, residents and partners of the police service.

“Taking the time to recognize their contributions brings us together and allows us to grow together,” said Berthiaume. “Our success is dependent on all of us coming together in a positive way.”

Berthiaume thanked town staff for their roles in assisting the Amherstburg Police Service and managing its $6 million budget. Berthiaume also thanked the Amherstburg Fire Department, but joked “thanks for making the Amherstburg Police Service look so good.”

Berthiaume said working together assists everyone.

“The benefit of all this hard work is the community, our community,” the chief added.

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.