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Community comes together to upgrade home of Ontario teen impaled by golf club

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For the first time since Madison Arseneault’s skull was impaled by a sawed-off golf club during gym class more than two years ago, the partially paralyzed teen has a bedroom she can actually access.

More than 70 companies and individuals in Windsor, Ont., rallied together and donated their time, money and supplies to renovate her family home and build an additional 800 square feet of accessible space. 

“It breaks my heart,” said Madison’s mom, Shirley Arseneault, holding back tears. “Basically another house was built, and basically just to accommodate Madison so that she can live life again.”

Madison Arseneault, centre, and her mother Shirley, left, and father Andrew, right, are eager to be able to use their newly renovated, fully accessible home once it’s finished in late February. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Since the 2016 accident, the family has been struggling with finances and would not have been able to do the renovations on their own.

The project — valued at more than $200,000 — came at no cost to the family because of community assistance.

Watch part of the emotional interview with Shirley and Madison Arseneault:

Shirley Arseneault describes how she copes with being a parent for her teenage daughter who continues to struggle with serious health issues. Madison Arseneault became impaled by a sawed-off golf club while running at a city park during gym class. 1:34

Madison’s life has dramatically changed ever since that spring day on May 25.

The accident happened during a gym class at the Ford Test Track, a city park adjacent to Madison’s grade school. The Grade 8 student was running on the track, decided to cut through on the grass, and tripped on some string city crews were using as a guide to paint lines on the soccer field. That string was held in place by sawed-off golf clubs staked in the ground, one of which came loose and punctured Madison’s skull.

Local philanthropist Jim Scott heard about what happened and called everyone he knew for help. Knowing the journey to recovery was going to be tough, they focused on making her family’s home accessible. More than 70 people came together and donated their time, money or supplies to retrofit her home.

“She’s living her life and she continues to want to be a normal student,” said Jake Heydon, a football player at Holy Names Catholic High School who played a role in the project.

Organizers had trouble finding someone to handle the demolition side of the renovation, so Heydon, his teammates and coaches made it happen.

“Especially someone who had such a horrific experience, when you can make that feeling go away a little bit and put a smile on their face, that’s what we really try to emphasize around here,” said coach Dan Hogan.

The Holy Names Catholic High School football team helped with the demolition during the renovation of the Arseneaults’ family home. (Arseneault family)

Partial paralysis is something Madison will likely have to live with for the rest of her life, according to her doctors. And at the end of each day, the teen says she often finds herself in pain because of unexplained circulation issues.

For the last two-and-a-half years, her bed has been in the family’s living room because she couldn’t climb the steep stairs to the second floor. The family has built a lift to allow her to get to the second floor.

“It’s really exciting, I just can’t wait for it to be finished,” she said.

Madison also loves to bake and cook, so she helped design the new kitchen to ensure it’s functional for her needs. From pull-down shelves in the upper cabinets, to a blender that simply pulls out from under the counter, she’ll soon be ready to resume her small cake-making business from home.

The home also now has an attached garage that leads to a lift inside, so Madison no longer has to wheel around the house in the rain or snow to access the backyard. And in her bathroom, most things are on the right-hand side because of her vision impairment.

Have a look at the Arseneaults’ nearly finished home and why these renovations matter:

The community in Windsor came together to renovate Madison’s house so she’s able to live a functional life at home. 1:58

Almost every day of each week, the teen has some sort of therapy — from counselling to physiotherapy. Although she made some gains, defying doctors’ predictions and starting to walk again, recently she’s taken a few steps back.

“I’ve been getting more headaches; they’re getting worse and just different, but nobody knows why,” she said.

One day at school, her headache became so severe it caused uncontrollable vomiting, a lot of pain and landed her in the hospital. Arseneault describes it as “one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt.”

“When I think about the way life was supposed to be and what I wanted for my daughter, that’s what gets me,” said Shirley Arseneault. “When I see her struggle or in pain, that’s what gets me. But she’s here — she wasn’t supposed to be, but she is.”

Once the renovations are fully complete, which is expected to be sometime later this month, the family is looking forward to having some sense of normalcy.

“You can see the excitement on her face,” said Shirley Arseneault. “It was like finally something was going to be hers.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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