‘With a little help from my friends’

Al Neill is packing his bags.

A four-week community-wide fundraising effort to assist the local Multiple Sclerosis sufferer met its goals of $20,000 — culminating in a sold-out auction and benefit social April 9 at the Dryden Fairgrounds Agricultural Centre.

Over 400 people packed the building in a display of support that rendered Neill and his family speechless with gratitude.“Thank you,” said Neill. “Dryden is really great in coming out for a cause — I don’t know why they felt that for me, but hey, they came out in full force. It’s so overwhelming, that’s all I can say. Thank you.”

Neill, wife Jackie Newstead and son Keely will use to the funds to travel to Costa Rica on May 6 for a scheduled surgery on May 10. Neill will undergo Liberation Treatment — a procedure resembling an angioplasty to open blocked jugular and azygous veins, improving circulation from the brain to the heart. The surgery has yet to be approved in Canada and Neill is among a growing number of MS patients seeking the treatment in foreign operating rooms.Following the surgery, Neill will remain in Costa Rica for a few weeks for rehabilitation and observation.

A live auction, conducted by Rick Lapointe featured a variety of items, among them a barbecue party featuring a live band, a Mexican condo vacation, and an iPad.At Saturday’s social, Neill played host to Dave Harasym, another MS sufferer with whom he has corresponded since the Pickle Lake resident recently underwent Liberation Treatment at the same Costa Rican clinic that Neill will visit.While not all MS patients see benefits from the treatment, Harasym says it has alleviated his symptoms in a remarkable way.

Al’s wife Jackie would like to thank everyone who played a role in the fundraising efforts.“It was just so emotional, very overwhelming for me,” said Jackie Newstead. “It was just so great that so many people would come out to support Al.”


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