On November 13, beloved community member and well-known taxi driver Russ McNeill suffered a severe stroke, which has left him in the hospital recovering since. Shortly after this unexpected tragedy, Russ's step daughter Chelsea Byman organized a bottle drive to help raise funds and support Russ and his family during this difficult time. That bottle drive was an incredible success, but it wasn't the only time the community rallied to support Russ.
On January 21, Chelsea also organized a fundraising roast beef dinner at Mike's Bar and Grill, which also had a silent auction with items donated from local businesses. Like the bottle drive before, Chelsea was blown away with the strong showing of support at the dinner, as around 30 people went and raised $1000.
"He's helped everybody (as a taxi driver and in the community) and to see the community come back and be able to support him, it warmed my heart. By the end of the night my heart was full and I will be forever grateful. I don't know if words can describe the feeling that I felt," Chelsea said.
Raising the funds to support Russ was a full community effort. Outside of Chelsea organizing the event and the people who went, it also required local businesses like Mike's Bar and Grill hosting the event, as well as all the others who donated for the silent auction.
"This town definitely comes together when a part of it needs help and I couldn't thank everybody enough, and I don't think I'll ever be able to because they were able to support us in this time of need."
As for Russ himself, he is still recovering and has unfortunately suffered a setback with what doctors think was a minor stroke.
"He was improving on his speech and walking, but now his speech is not so good. He's not able to do stuff like he was progressing to do."
The initial recovery timeline was anywhere from 6-12 months, but with this setback doctors are still working on a diagnosis and potential recovery timeline. For now, he is at Foothills Hospital, and may move to Ponoka in 6-12 months, as Chelsea explained Ponoka has a better stroke medical centre.
In the meantime, Russ's family will continue to support him however they can as he goes through this difficult time. The money raised will go a long way to helping him, as Chelsea said the money will help buy Russ the clothes and necessities he needs while he remains in care, as well as help the family cover their costs that they lost now that Russ isn't working.
Even though this recent setback has been difficult, Chelsea said she's been telling Russ about all the positive community support, and remains incredibly thankful for how much the community has done.
"The town is family, Strathmore is a big community and a family member got sick and I am overwhelmed by the response. I will be forever thankful. I've lived here for 20 some years and the support that I've got in the past few months has just been amazing."
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