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Giant billboard convinces truck driver to give kidney to total stranger

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A billboard convinced Tony Timmons to donate a kidney, and, in exchange, he found a friend.

Timmons drives trucks out of Airdrie, Alta. One day on his way to work, he spotted a giant sign with a plea: « Ryan Mclennan needs a living kidney donor, blood type O. »

« It just made me feel obligated, you know, because the guy’s really desperate, » Timmons told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

On Wednesday, he goes under the knife. One of his two kidneys will be placed in Mclennan’s body, a life-saving transplant for the man in renal failure.

‘I got to do something’

Mclennan’s wife, Shakina Mclennan, bought 27 billboards, making their heart-wrenching situation hard to miss.

The unorthodox plea for donations made headlines last winter, and it got results. Mclennan received about 170 calls, with 50 applying to see if they were a match. The Kidney Foundation in Calgary also reported dozens of donation inquiries. 

After Timmons spotted one of the advertisements, his wife showed him a news clip about the family. Mclennan’s own mother had donated a kidney to him 15 years ago but that one was now failing.

« She couldn’t donate, obviously, her last one and he never had no family members that could, » Timmons said. « So I just said I got to do something, someone’s got to do something. »

Ryan Mclennan’s family set up 27 billboards in Calgary to search for a living kidney donor. (James Young/CBC)

Miraculously, he was a match, which is no small feat. Others have been tested to see if they’d match with Mclennan with no luck.

Mclennan said he’s still surprised the billboards worked.

« You don’t believe it, » he said. « Your head is in the clouds and you just can’t believe that this day is going to come….

« It’s almost like you’re drowning and someone jumps in and saves you — and it takes sometimes a very, very, very special person to do that. »

New friends, a ‘huge bonus’

The « huge bonus, » Mclennan said, is he has gotten to know Timmons, which would be impossible with an anonymous donation.

The two couples are like family now, Lisa Timmons said. They had dinner together Sunday night to get mentally prepared for surgery this week.

From left to right: Ryan McLennan, Tony Timmons, Lisa Timmons and Shakina McLennan had dinner on Sunday ahead of the week’s big surgery. (Submitted by Lisa Timmons)

Lisa said she admires her husband, who very much doesn’t like to be centre of attention, for doing the selfless act out of kindness and not for publicity.

« There’s a reason why I married him, for one, because he’s kind-hearted, he’s generous and he puts other people first, » Timmons said.

Lisa Timmons says she knew her husband was kind when they married but she’s extremely proud of him for donating his kidney. (Lisa Timmons)

Mclennan said he’s looking forward to the transplant he expects will change his life « 100 per cent. »

« I’m getting a third chance. I mean, right now, I’m very restricted in so many of the things I can do, » he said. « I know what it’s like to have a transplant and I know what it’s like to change my life, so that’s why this one’s so important. »

Mclennan was a mechanic when he was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 2003. He then retrained as a teacher and now teaches shop at Father Lacombe High School.

Ryan Mclennan, who instructs in the mechanics and autobody program at Father Lacombe High School in Calgary, sits with his mother, Elaine Austin. The family posted appeals on a number of billboards searching for a living kidney donor for Mclennan. (Submitted by Shakina Mclennan)

After some recovery, Mclennan hopes to get back into the classroom. Timmons said he also expects to limit his time off work, although doctors have asked him to rest for three months.

He also says he’s not as nervous as perhaps he should be, choosing instead to put his trust in the heath-care system.

« I think it’ll be all right. I mean, things go on, made a new friend. That’s about it, » Timmons said with a laugh.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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