Town honours volunteers with special luncheon



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg and its tourism department took time out to pay tribute to community members that give back.

A special volunteer luncheon was held at the Libro Centre last Thursday where approximately 70 volunteers were recognized. Tourism co-ordinator Sarah Van Grinsven said it was a town event but the tourism department has the data on the volunteers that help at town events.

Van Grinsven added that community groups were also consulted in order to get their volunteers as well. Sports teams and groups were also part of the event with volunteers receiving recognition.

“We really wanted to recognize volunteers that make a difference in our community,” she said.

Van Grinsven said the hope is to make it an annual event. They know there are a lot more volunteers out there but there is only so much room to hold them at any one time.

Roughly 70
volunteers from around the Amherstburg community were honoured last Thursday
afternoon at the Libro Centre.
A special volunteer luncheon was presented by the Town of Amherstburg and the town’s tourism

“Hopefully we can recognize more next year,” said Van Grinsven. “There are thousands of people who volunteer  in the community and help out. Our goal is to recognize volunteers every single year and let them know they are appreciated.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, who presented certificates from the town. “It came from the tourism department. They are the department that is the most affected by the number of volunteers in town.”

DiCarlo said special events and groups couldn’t be presented or do what they do without the assistance of volunteers.

“I think it’s a great initiative on their part to finally recognize the volunteers in a formal way,” DiCarlo added. “We could not do what we do without the number of volunteers that we have.”

Van Grinsven added that that” we are always encouraging people to get involved and volunteer.” If they would like to fill out an application to volunteer they can go to https://amherstburg.formbuilder.ca/2018-Volunteer-Form.

Miracle League keeps searching for volunteers



By Ron Giofu


The 2018 fall Miracle League of Amherstburg season is entering the home stretch but the “Help Wanted” sign is still out.

The Miracle League still needs volunteers to help them through the two remaining weeks of the schedule. Michele Vigneux, a board member with the Miracle League of Amherstburg, noted that people both youth and adult are welcome to come out.

“It’s great when we have business or community groups come out,” she said.

There are weeks, however, where it has been a “bit of a struggle” to get volunteers to come out and stay the entire day. There were only two volunteers that helped out the last game Sept. 29. Last week’s action was cancelled due to weather.

“We need volunteers for the safety of the players and to make it run smoothly,” explained Vigneux.

Games are at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. A lot of volunteer spots still remain, Vigneux added, and businesses and groups as well as individuals are welcome to help out.

It is a good opportunity for high school students to complete their 40 hours of community service that is needed for graduation, she also stated.

To volunteer, show up at the field for whatever games(s) you are available for or contact buddy leaders Janet at janetmlabuddyteam@gmail.com or Danielle at daniellemlabuddyteam@gmail.com.

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.

Miracle League of Amherstburg returns with its spring season




By Ron Giofu


Athletes with the Miracle League of Amherstburg got to play ball last Saturday.

The Miracle League’s spring season got underway at the Miracle diamond located at the Libro Centre. Michele Vigneux, one of the Miracle League’s board members and its publicity director, said they have a large enrolment of players this year as 158 people have signed up.

The league, as it always has done, as featured players of a variety of ages from all around Windsor-Essex County and not just Amherstburg.

Abbi-Lynne Dufour clowns around with Hunter, the Miracle League mascot, during the league’s first day of the 2018 spring season May 5.

“That’s our highest number so far,” Vigneux said of the enrolment figure.

The Miracle League of Amherstburg features nine teams, with four games throughout the day. One game sees three teams rotate between batting and fielding to try and get all athletes with a disability the chance to play baseball.

Kyle Jones takes a swing at a pitch.

Vigneux said this is a milestone year for the Miracle League of Amherstburg, as it turns 10-year-old in September. She added there are still families finding out there is a Miracle League in operation in Amherstburg.

“We’re happy to be still going strong,” she said.

Gerald Lemire connects with a pitch during the opening day of the Miracle League spring season May 5.

The Miracle League of Amherstburg does need volunteers for the next seven weeks of the spring season. Vigneux said groups and businesses are welcome to come out and help as are individuals. She pointed out it is a great way for high school students to get their required 40 hours of volunteer service.

To volunteer, contact Janet at janetmlabuddyteam@gmail.com, Danielle at danielltmlabuddyteam@gmail.com, visit www.amherstburgmiracle.com or call 519-919-4641.

It is the first Miracle League in Canada and came to town with the aid of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg.

Miracle League celebrates its volunteers



By Ron Giofu


A quartet of Miracle League volunteers have summed up their feeling helping the local organization.

Conor Dawson, Brad Bondy, Avery Duhart and Nancy Ferguson are four of the many that volunteer their Saturdays with Miracle League, which concluded its spring season June 24. They all got started in different ways but are all glad they are involved.

“I play baseball for Turtle Club (in LaSalle),” explained Dawson. “I like the game and try to get easy volunteer hours.”

For Duhart, it was another case of getting high school volunteer hours.

Among the many volunteers that help the Miracle League of Amherstburg operate are Brad Bondy, Conor Dawson, Nancy Ferguson and Avery Duhart. All four say they find their experiences rewarding.

Among the many volunteers that help the Miracle League of Amherstburg operate are Brad Bondy, Conor Dawson, Nancy Ferguson and Avery Duhart. All four say they find their experiences rewarding.

“I started volunteering for high school and I really enjoyed it after I got my hours,” he said. “Also, you can’t beat free food.”

Ferguson said she started out at the barbecue but said she wanted to be a “buddy” to some of the athletes.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Ferguson.

Bondy said he enjoys announcing the games every Saturday during the Miracle League’s spring and fall seasons, noting he sees the excitement in the players’ eyes.

“When they get a home run, it’s beautiful to see,” he said. “Without the volunteers, that wouldn’t happen. It’s an amazing thing.”

Duhart said when he sees people with disabilities, he understands what they go through thanks to Miracle League. Dawson agreed, and quoted the Miracle League motto “Everyone deserves a chance to play baseball!”

“I agree with that,” said Dawson.

Bondy said whenever he or his family sees someone with challenges, they refer them to Miracle League. Ferguson added that Miracle League athlete Bryan Dzombak grew up with her son Chase and still know each other.

The four volunteers describe their experiences with Miracle League as inspiring, amazing, motivational and rewarding with Dawson stating it has opened his eyes to people with disabilities and what they can accomplish.

“You are playing the game through them,” added Ferguson.

All four agree that there is no one player that makes the days special, with Bondy saying the list of positive experiences is “endless.” He added that it is nice to see people young and old attend games, noting it’s not just for Amherstburg residents but all of Windsor-Essex County.

Chuck Bondy, president of the Miracle League’s board of directors, said it is the volunteers that make things happen every week. He added that the public is very generous with donations and credited them for generating the money to fund Miracle League operations.

“All we do is steer the ship,” said Bondy. “It’s the volunteers that make it go.”