Sean MacKinnon

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 People can also contact Cox at 519-736-8559 or or Alexander at