Thursday, October 19, 2017

Inspired by his mother's illness, Royal Vale student launches hair-raising campaign that supports two causes at once

After watching a video on Facebook a couple years ago about a boy donating his locks to cancer patients in need of high-quality wigs, a young Côte St. Luc resident decided to take that initiative a step further.

“Everybody cuts their hair for cancer,” said Oren Sendel with a smile that never seems to fade from his face. “I wanted to do more.”

When he started growing out his hair, Oren had a buzz cut. Now weeks away from his 13th birthday, he has long, wavy hair that reaches the middle of his back and curtains his face like a lion’s mane. Small for his age, but giant in heart, Oren is looking to help two causes at once.

Oren has grown up watching his mother, Laurie Sendel, struggle with Multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. To honour her struggle, Oren is not only donating his locks to a group that makes free, human-hair wigs for cancer patients, he is looking for sponsors to support his cause by donating money to the Montreal Neurological Hospital in the care of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic.

“An account will be set up and the funds will go towards making some dark days a little brighter for those who need it,” he writes on his website that he launched in mid-October — one month before he plans to snip off all his hair. “The money can be used to pay for a taxi on a day when a patient is exhausted or to buy a cane for someone who needs one.  It can also be used to offset the cost of the medicines needed as they are very expensive.  I trust that the hospital will know where the money is most needed.”

Laurie Sendel said Oren, her youngest of three children, has not let go of his mission and that has impressed the entire family. At first, people were asking why he wasn’t cutting his hair, but, as soon as they heard the reasoning, they have been supporting him ever since. So far, about $200 has come in from friends and family, but Oren is hoping to earn as much as possible.

Oren often keeps his hair tied back, leaving his vision clear for football practice, biking around his neighbourhood and his studies at Royal Vale School. He plans to cut it in time for his bar mitzvah, but, before that, he is asking people to spread the word about his fundraising mission.

“My mom has MS and I wanted to help,” he said. “Everyone always needs help, I guess, and somebody needs to do it.”

Laurie Sendel said she is proud of her son not just as his mother, but as an MS patient.

“It’s taking something that is a little bit negative in our lives and giving it such a positive feel,” she said. “Oren surprises us a lot, so I wasn’t shocked when he came up with this idea. I was very impressed. What I was surprised with is it has taken him such a long time to grow his hair and, throughout this journey, he has never let go of that idea. He has never let go of the idea that he is going to donate his hair and help people with MS.”

Below is a video of my interview with Oren and his mother. Be sure to check out his website and donate:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Little Shop of Horrors debuts in Côte St. Luc

The Côte St. Luc Dramatic Society will be performing Little Shop of Horrors until June 25, offering local theatre lovers a full-scale, professional production of a classic, horror-comedy-rock musical.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, who performs in the play and serves as the producer, said the performance is suitable for kids aged 10 to 12, depending on their level of maturity. There is a cast of 23 amateur and professional actors, two puppeteers and a five-piece band.

Of course, Audrey II, a talking plant that develops a taste for people meat, will be on stage as well in four different stages of development. By the second half of the play, the plant is larger than life.

The play is being held in city hall's Harold Greenspon Auditorium, but buy your tickets soon because the venue only seats 136 and word of this vibrant, exciting performance is spreading fast.

Tickets can be bought on this website or at various locations in Côte St. Luc, including city hall and the Aquatic and Community Centre.  For the full story on this play, read my article in the Montreal Gazette and then check out these photos below provided by production manager Reesa Rosenfeld.
-Isaac Olson

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cyclist and pedestrian group demands safer, protected bike paths in NDG

By Isaac Olson
Members of the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists of NDG (APC NDG) gathered in front of the Benny Library and Cultural Centre on May 5 holding up signs demanding safer bike paths in the district.

About two dozen sign-holding members of the APC NDG gathered despite the rain, holding up bilingual signage with slogans such as “protegez les cyclists” or “we need concrete barriers on de Maisonneuve bike path.” 

This demonstration was held as politicians, borough staff and citizens streamed into the building for the monthly Côte des Neiges—NDG borough meeting.

“Other cities in Canada are moving forward with bike paths,” Deanne Delaney told the council during the question period. She cited the city of Vancouver as a specific example while reminding councillors that the non-profit advocacy group submitted a bike plan proposal on August 7, 2016 and have since "been asking for news and updates, coming to borough meetings, to no avail.”

A meeting with borough officials is slated for late June. Delaney said the group now feels listened to  but the need for safe bike paths in NDG has not been resolved. By safe, she noted, the group is not just talking about lane lines painted on the road, but actual infrastructure that protects cyclists of all ages. 

As one of the signs stated in French: "Don't wait for the death of a cyclist."

She reminded the mayor that he is invited to come on a bike ride with the group to tour the de Maisonneuve bike path. That path, she said, needs more protection and “other measures” to reduce vehicular speed as motorists use the street as an east-to-west connection, bypassing the traffic lights on Sherbrooke St.

Borough mayor Russell Copeman said the bike path plan had been received and “our borough services have been looking at it.” Reflections on that plan will be shared in late June during the meeting, he said. He said he accepts the invitation to go on a bike ride with the group and he plans to take advantage of Bixi for that trip which, he said, will likely happen in August.

Earlier in the meeting, Loyola district councillor Jeremy Searle suggested that the de Maisonneuve bike path be raised up on concrete to further protect cyclists because motorists will be less inclined to drive on the path if there is a curb to hop. As it is, despite the bollards, motorists are regularly seen weaving onto the path to avoid slow or turning cars. Trucks are also known to cross into the path while making wide-sweeping, right-hand turns onto de Maisonneuve. 

This protest and discussion comes as the fight for a green pedestrian and cyclist bridge connecting NDG to LaSalle over the highway and Turcot rail yard continues to build steam.  At noon on June 11, an assembly is planned to further that fight and make that bridge a reality. Known as the “dalle-parc” in French, the gathering begins at 6450 Notre Dame St. W. For more information, make sure to check out the Facebook page dedicated to this cause.

NDG district councillor Peter McQueen has been leading the charge for this bike bridge, saying it is important that NDGers have access to the Lachine Canal, Angringon Park and everything else to the south of the highway. Otherwise, cyclists and pedestrians have to go to Westmount or Montreal West to get south of Route 20. He invited the public to attend the June 11 assembly. 

"They're building road bridges over what is going to be the new highway down there," said Mcqueen during the meeting. "They're building them all in advance, so they should be building the bicycle bridge too."

Like and follow the APC NDG Facebook page to stay updated on these issues.

Deanne Delaney addresses the council. All photos: Isaac Olson

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

'Below the Tracks Reunion' planned for NDGers from 50s, 60s, 70s

The “Below the Tracks Reunion” is going to be an exciting event on May 19 at the NDG-based Crowley Arts Centre, bringing together those that grew up in the area in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Nick Patulli, director of operations at the Crowley Arts Centre. “It is a very close-nit community that will come together  for the first time in 30 - 40 years and some even 50 years. It will be a very special evening where we will be celebrating life and paying tribute to friends that have passed away too early.”

Patulli is one of the countless people that have fond memories growing up in NDG, south of the tracks, and he has fostered hundreds of lifelong friendships over the years. While many stayed in the area, still others moved on and this event will bring everybody, near and far, all back together again to remember days gone by. There are several big names that will be attending the event, he said, as a good many people went on to be quite successful in life.

The event will be held at the beautiful Crowley Arts Centre on Crowley Ave., just west of Decarie Blvd. The facility is fully equipped to host events like this that will include live music, an open bar and a free smoked meat buffet. The live musical entertainment will be jamming out tunes from the era, spurring memories as people enjoy first-class food, drinks and fun.

The event begins at 6:30 pm and it will run into the wee hours of the morning. Tickets are $40 presale or $50 at the door. For more information, click this link.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May 1 borough council meeting highlights - $27 million going to borough roads

Citizens and borough officials gather in 6767 Côte-des-Neiges Rd. for the
May 1 borough council meeting. Photo: Isaac Olson

Kicking off the May 1 council meeting, borough mayor Russell Copeman said that, with the votes coming later in the evening, Côte-des-Neiges–NDG will approve a total of $27 million of road and sidewalk reconstruction work in 2017.

The borough, he said, will be repaving 30 kilometres of roads in 2017, adding to all that has been done since he was elected in November 2013.

The borough, he said, will have redone 35 percent of its streets by the end of 2017. This is a “level of investment never seen before,” said Copeman. His administration, he added, has been committed to the task since taking office.

Most of the money, Copeman noted, is coming from centre city.

Old Orchard Ave. resident complains about parking
An Old Orchard Ave. resident came forward with 54 petition signatures from residents that want reserved parking in their neighbourhood just south of Sherbrooke St.

With an increasing amount of reserved parking around the Vendôme Metro, the resident said metro and train users are forced to park as far away as Old Orchard Ave. That is combined with the two mechanics at the de Maisonneuve Blvd. intersection using some eight to 10 parking spots every day.

While the resident was concerned that the process would take up to two years to get approved, borough director Stéphane Plante said it won’t take more than two month. There was a request in the past, but studies found the parking situation wasn’t that bad. Now, however, if it as bad as residents claim, it won’t take more than two months to get reserved residential parking.

NDG district councillor Peter McQueen said parking is increasingly an issue as far west as Beaconsfield Ave. as reserved parking around the metro station is clearly creating issues in the surrounding neighbourhoods. The garages in de Maisonneuve will eventually move out, he said, and the area has been rezoned for residential. With condos coming in, he said he will insist on underground parking.

McQueen pulls church motion
Councillor Peter McQueen withdrew his motion to protect church green space likely, he said, to be presented at a later meeting. To read more about the motion, click here.

400 Alouettes passes purchased
The borough council approved the purchase of 400 Montreal Alouettes football game passes on June 16 to be be distributed to community and sporting organizations in the borough. The total cost for this purchase is $2,400. Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand said the tickets are purchased at a reduced rate.

Pedestrian mall coming to Côte-des-Neiges Rd. 
The southern side of Côte-des-Neiges Rd. between Queen-Mary Rd. and Frère-André St. will be extended to create a pedestrian mall and public square from May 26 to September 8. This will include the installation of sidewalk cafes and “beautification items.”

Councillors make $6,825 in one-time contributions 
Borough councillors and the mayor all have discretionary budgets to tap into throughout the year and give to organizations or initiatives. This month the total of one-time financial contributions reached $6,825. View these images for the break down.

-Isaac Olson

Hebrew Academy students win big for charity

Four students from Hebrew Academy, a private Jewish school based in Côte St. Luc, won $5,000 for Montreal's Donald Berman Chai Lifeline on April 27.  

Four semi-finalist student groups representing the Starlight Foundation, Friendship Circle, Yaldei Developmental Centre and Chai Lifeline presented their charities before their peers and a panel of student and parent judges that included Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, states a school press release.  The winning team was awarded a big fat cheque for the Chai Lifeline.

"The nail-biting face-off signified the climax of students’ months-long participation in the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), a project of the Toskan Casale Foundation that encourages teens to research and advocate for a local charity for the chance to win it a $4,000 grant," states the release. "Hebrew Academy will donate $500 and the students are raising another $500."

Touting it as a real-life educational experience, the school's lead YPI teacher Celia Natanblut incorporates the initiative as part of her Grade 10 Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) curriculum.

Based on their research, students prepare a request for funding proposal on behalf of their charity, along with a presentation to introduce their cause to their peers. Charities the teens advocated for include Sun Youth, MADA Community Center, Friendship Circle, Chai Lifeline, Share the Warmth, Starlight, Make a Wish, Auberge Shalom and The Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre.

YPI Social Impact Coordinator Rachel Paris flew in from Toronto to facilitate the event and present the winners, Grade 10 students Isaac Safran, Nathan Benizri, Kyle Fallenbaum and Yehuda Bessner with a giant cheque.

“The Hebrew Academy community has truly gone above and beyond in supporting our Chai Lifeline Warriors,” said Montreal's Chair Lifeline coordinator Stu Guttman. “We feel privileged to be able to count them among our trusted friends in fighting illness with hope and love.”

Chai Lifeline is a charity for ill children, helping parents cope by offering a range of services.

Citizen push for green bridge over incoming highway, Turcot yards heating up

This Transports Quebec image of a green bridge dates back to 2010.
By Isaac Olson
The push for a green bridge over connecting NDG to the Southwest borough is heating up, with a protest planned for June 4.

Montreal’s city council approved a plan to construct a bike path down the falaise St. Jacques in southern
NDG as that is clearly under city jurisdiction, said NDG district councillor Peter McQueen during the May 1 borough council meeting.

However, he said, Transports  Quebec needs to commit to building a bike bridge over the incoming Highway 136 which will replace the 20. There is a video on Facebook that discusses this issue in French. It can be found here. In the video, it outlines the disappearance of a "dalle parc" or green bridge plan that was promised to cyclists back in 2010.

That plan has since been taken off the table and now people are fighting to make it a reality. The original plan called for a large concrete overpass decorated with trees and vegetation. Read Andy Riga's article the Montreal Gazette to learn more.

“Once the new highway comes into use in the next two years, the old highway will still be there,” said McQueen. “We’re asking Transports Quebec to plan that bicycle path now.”

Cyclists want to be able to access the Lachine Canal, St. Lawrence River, Angrignon Park and everything else that can be found in the Southwest Borough and beyond. As it stands, cyclists and pedestrians must head east into Westmount or west into Montreal West to get south of the highway and Turcot yards.

“This is a major goal,” he said. “We must continue to push for this.”

In that continued effort to push for a bridge, a protest is planned for May 21 at the Vendôme Metro station, he said.

“Come to NDG on Sunday, May 21 at 11 am for the demonstration in front of the Vendôme Metro station,” said McQueen.

To stay updated on these issues, follow the Association of Pedestrians and Cyclists NDG on Facebook.