The community rallies for a great cause

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Tomorrow afternoon and evening, the Queensborough Community Centre (the historic former one-room schoolhouse in our little hamlet) will be the site of a very special event that should be a lot of fun to boot. Our next-door neighbours here at the Manse, Brian and Sylvia MacNeil, have organized Queensborough’s very own (and very probably first-ever) Oktoberfest – featuring, as the publicity says, “Food, Fun, Froth, und Fantastic Musik.”

There’s a very serious purpose to this fun event, though: it’s a fundraiser for the family of 15-year-old Joel Lockwood, an area resident whose grandparents, Ralph and Kathy Underhill, live here in Queensborough. Joel has been struck by cancer and has had to have a leg amputated as a result. He continues to undergo intensive treatment including chemotherapy, there may well be more surgery, and his family, which is not well-off, is dealing with all the expense involved in travelling to hospitals in Toronto and Kingston and staying in those cities while Joel’s there, in addition to the enormous emotional strain. So the money raised at our Oktoberfest will surely be incredibly welcome to them in this time of overwhelming stress and worry and expense.

It is heartwarming to see the outpouring of local support for Joel and his family. The local newspapers have all carried stories about the Oktoberfest event, and this week’s issue of the Central Hastings News (online: insidebelleville.com) featured the photo at the top of this post (by Diane Sherman) of the giant card wishing Joel well, made and signed by his fellow students at Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc. (Holding the card are, from left, Paige Danford, Gerri Wagner, Brett Prevost, Chris Post and Neely Bray.) Half of the money raised in CHSS’s Terry Fox Run last month went to a trust fund set up to help Joel and his family.

So I have three things to tell you about all of this.

One: If you’re in the Queensborough area tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 5), do yourself a favour and come out for some food, fun, music, and community fellowship in support of this good cause. Queensborough’s own Oktoberfest takes place from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the Community Centre, 1853 Queensborough Rd.

Two: If you can’t attend the event, you can contribute to the fund for Joel by making a donation at the TD Canada Trust branch in Madoc. Call or stop in to the branch and they’ll know what to do. (The account has been set up by Joel’s grandfather, Ralph Underhill. I had the great pleasure of meeting Ralph and Kathy for the first time yesterday: good people trying to hold up in a time of great trouble.)

And three: Here is my Queensborough story of the day. As I was walking back to the Manse after my visit with the Underhills yesterday morning, who should come zooming up but the organizers of the Oktoberfest, Brian and Sylvia (with Tatum the dog in the back seat, as always). Of course they stopped to chat, and as they did they were bopping along to polka music on the car’s CD player – “To get us in the mood!” Sylvia explained with her usual bright smile. They were having a ball, driving hither and yon to pick up stuff for the big event – the butcher shop, the supermarket, all over the place. They were so cheery and busy, and their enthusiasm was absolutely contagious.

What Sylvia and Brian are doing in organizing this event is something wonderful: bringing the community together to help a family in its time of great need. And doing it with cheerful hearts and an apparently endless supply of energy.

That’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “The community rallies for a great cause

  1. Hi Katherine,

    Is there an update regarding Joel’s health? Before I saw this item on your blog, I had read an article in the Intelligencer, regarding the Oktoberfest for Joel. I then sent a letter and cheque to his grandfather, but I’m afraid since then, I haven’t heard (or read) anything further about Joel’s situation. So, I’m hoping that treatments are going well, although it’s always a huge concern, and especially when one has to travel so far for medical help, often on an ongoing basis. Thanks.

    • It is kind of you to think to ask, Sash. I haven’t seen Ralph or Kathy Underhill, Joel’s grandparents who live in Queensborough, for several weeks, though I may see Ralph at a meeting of the Queensborough Community Centre committee (of which Raymond and I are new members) tomorrow evening. However, the Tweed News published a followup story just last week, reporting that, while numerous growths on Joel’s lungs were successfully removed in surgery at Sick Kids’ in late November, “the cancer is now in his system and the fear is that it will continue to move into Joel’s back and brain.” Our neighbour Sylvia, an organizer of the very successful Oktoberfest fundraiser, said it best in the news story: “At 15 (Joel’s age), that’s hard.” I hope everyone will continue to include Joel and his family in their prayers. I sure am.

      • Thanks for the update, Katherine. This must be a great concern to all in Queensborough, and the distress upon the immediate family must be terrible. I am sorry that the cancer seems to be spreading. It’s a terrible thing to go through, at any age, but for a young man of that age, it doesn’t seem right or fair (not that it is at any time, or under any other circumstance). Also, given that this is the holiday season, this will be a particularly hard time for the family. Having to commute to Toronto for treatment is a major problem on top of everything else, and the expenses must be too much for the family to bear. I sure hope that there is something that can break through this and rid Joel of the cancers and fears that they must all be dreading so much. Thanks again.

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