SPRINGDALE, NL — A Toronto man, who grew up in Springdale, has been living with the traumatic diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for more than a decade and is now getting some help following a setback.
Dion Oxford — a husband to Erinn and father to 15-year-old Cate — woke up Jan. 25 unable to get out of bed.
“I called for an ambulance and I have been in hospital ever since," he explained by phone from Toronto. "I’m in a rehab hospital, working with occupational and physical therapists to build my strength.”
Oxford’s current physical goal is to regain enough strength to bear his own body weight so he can transfer himself from his bed to his wheelchair. He would also like to get back home. However, that is not possible until his house is renovated—including a hospital bed and a lift for his wheelchair—to accommodate his new needs.
The cost of the renovations and equipment will be more than $110,000.
When Barb Bowers-Winsor of Springdale heard her family friend’s health had taken a turn for the worse, she began to worry. When she found out his family home would need extensive renovations before he could leave the hospital, she decided to help.
“Before this, Dion’s work was always for the homeless and the downtrodden,” Bowers-Winsor said. “He helped that many people that we don’t even know about. I thought, he’s from our home and our church. He gave and gave, and now that he can’t give any more because of his MS, it’s time to give something back to him.”
She called her niece and another of her friends, and they came up with the idea of holding a fundraiser — a roast beef dinner — to help with some of the costs. Their group, “Friends of Dion Oxford,” will be hosting “A Little Help for Dion” at the Salvation Army multipurpose hall April 19.
Oxford worked for the Salvation Army’s Toronto housing and homeless supports. It’s a job he will never be able to return to because of the disease.
“My formal working days are over, but I will get back to writing and consulting on a volunteer basis,” he said.
He is also continuing as a student of Spiritual Direction—a practice of guiding people as they attempt to deepen their connection with the divine. Dion describes it as being “like therapy, but through a lens of spirituality.”
The whole community of Springdale has come together to make this fundraiser a success, according to Bowers-Winsor. Caterer Barb Butt donated her services, a local farmer has donated vegetables, the Springdale Community Development Coop and Terry Croucher of NL Vegetation Control have made significant contributions, and the Oxford family are making desserts for the 150 guests. Many other people are donating their time to make sure it all comes together.
“People have volunteered to set up tables or to peel vegetables,” she said. “That’s what makes my hometown so good to live in—no one says no when it comes to helping others.”
The tickets for the fundraiser sold out in just a few days, with an estimated $1,800 raised. Bowers-Winsor is taking names on a waiting list in case any of the current guests are unable to attend. She has also received cash donations from people who cannot be in Springdale at the time.
In addition to the Springdale fundraiser, Joanna Moon, of East York, Ont. has set up a GoFundMe account—www.gofundme.com/xjxdme-oxford-home-renos—to help the Oxford family. Bowers-Winsor says if the combined effort of the dinner and the GoFundMe doesn’t generate enough funds for the renovations, there will be other fundraisers held in the future.
Oxford is honoured and humbled by the way his friends are finding ways to support him.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s really moving that people are so caring, that they are supporting us through this process.”
He writes about his spiritual explorations and his life with MS on his blog, www.dionoxford.com.