“You don’t have to quit.”
It’s a message of hope and inspiration, from Sebringville resident Neil McPhee.
“Even though I’m in a chair, I try to stay active and engaged.”
For eight years Neil has been living with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) better known as the debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease.
His condition was supposed to have claimed his life more than 3 years ago, but Neil continues to fight on.
Over the last year Neil says he has spent much of his time travelling across rural Ontario in his new wheelchair. “We decided to see if they could take me on a tour of different farms and businesses.”
"We've taken him to a variety of different farms," said retired pork farmer Murry Schlotzhauer.
Schlotzhauer, a volunteer with the Rotary Hospice Stratford-Perth Visitation Program, has organized many of the over 25 trips.
“It’s always been rewarding to visit your clients.”
Along with egg farmer Gary West the volunteer group has provided Neil with a unique opportunity to visit businesses and farms to see where much of our food comes from and meet the people making it.
According to Neil the tours and visits give him something to look forward to. “For the guys to come and talk to me as we are now, it’s a demonstration of goodness that helps get me up out of bed each day.”
“In general farmers have always been great at stepping up to the situation,” said Scholzhauer.
That statement rang true in a big way, when a story on Neil’s zest for life and his need for a new wheelchair was published in a local paper.
“We used to get the Ontario Farmer and there was Neil’s story,” said Middlesex County pork producer Mike Kerrigan. “I wasn’t even halfway through it, and I knew this was calling us to do something.”
In rural Ontario fashion, the agricultural community stepped up, including a $4000 donation from Kerrigan.
“As my mom would say if you don’t give until it hurts then you are not giving,” said Kerrigan. “We weren’t the only ones there was a lot of people that made donations, we came in at the end and we helped top it up to make it work.”
An act of kindness that certainly touched Neil’s heart in a monumental way. “For us to discover that this giving, loving community could embrace me, I wasn’t expecting it."
His new wheelchair cost $35,000, fundraised thanks to people like Mike Kerrigan and others from Stratford-Perth and surrounding farming communities.
"We're not the recipients of money as such we are being witness to the witness of goodness that exists still," said Neil.
Despite a daily battle with ALS, Neil says he has a lot to be grateful for. He also has a message about supporting local farmers, as it was rural communities who showed him remarkable generosity.
"Without supporting local, the community goes away and if we don’t have the community what do we, it’s so very important to shop locally, buy local - be local.
Watch Neil's interview here on Ontario Pork News: https://youtu.be/Y6G-XBsxrOk