Mike Cox

Special Olympics hockey game sees police battle General Amherst



By Ron Giofu


Special Olympics Ontario will benefit from a charity hockey game that was held at the Libro Centre before the holidays.

General Amherst High School’s boys hockey team faced off against the Amherstburg Police Service team, though the latter contained officers from other departments as well as family members and supporters. The police team also featured the services of Amherstburg Admirals’ co-owner Wes Ewer and General Amherst principal Melissa DeBruyne.

Mike Cox, the long-time Amherstburg police officer who was also a major part in Special Olympics fundraising over the years, said with the exception of about a three or four year period after the former AMA Arena closed and the Libro Centre opened, the game has been going on for “as long as I can remember.”

The Amherstburg police team and the General Amherst boys hockey team gather for a group photo following their charity hockey game for Special Olympics Dec. 21.

Over the past number of decades, the police played the fire department, the Admirals, General Amherst and even the Detroit Red Wings alumni. He thanked his colleagues for helping out and taking over much of his former duties in organizing Special Olympics fundraisers including Nick D’Amore, Don Brown and Melissa Taylor.

One of the fond memories Cox had included the year two-time Olympic gold medalist Meghan Agosta played for the high school team.

“It’s not often you get to skate with someone who has a couple of gold medals,” said Cox. “She’s such a good person, just a fantastic person.”

Raising money for Special Olympics has long been a love for Cox, and is something he plans on continuing in his post-policing career.

“If we can raise a few dollars to support the cause, it’s something we love to do,” said Cox. “I’ll still be involved with Special Olympics and the Essex County Heroes.”

General Amherst boys hockey team coach Pat Garrett (left) presents an award to Mike Cox in recognition of Cox’s service to the school community.

Cox is hopeful the Special Olympics hockey game continues under the Windsor police banner.

“It’s the community. That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “The more contact with police only makes for a better community.”
General Amherst head coach Pat Garrett, who presented Cox with a plaque in recognition for his service over the years, said it was a great cause the team and school were happy to be part of.

“I think it was a fun day,” said Garrett, noting the work put in by fellow teacher Greg Scott’s fitness and recreational leadership class to make it happen.

Garrett noted DeBruyne was also supportive of the event, adding that honoring Cox “was very important.”

For more photos from the game, please visit our Facebook photo album.

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.

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.”