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West Kelowna family hopeful U.S. surgery will help 3-year-old son with cerebral palsy walk freely

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Three-year-old Ben Weller uses a walker to get around, but his family is hoping a surgery available in the U.S. could help him walk freely.

Ben and his twin brother were born 11 weeks early.

They were too tiny to bottle- or breastfeed so they spent the first two months of their lives hooked up to oxygen and feeding tubes in a Vancouver hospital, their mother Stephanie Weller said.


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Then, during their six-month checkup, the Wellers’ world changed forever.

Ben was diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

“Time just stopped,” Stephanie said. “I just looked at him: he was sitting on this table, and I thought, ‘He never even got a real chance.’”


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Ben’s condition affects his legs and arms, making them stiff and contracted, and permanently affects muscle control and co-ordination, she added.

“Our physiotherapist said it’s like if you have an extremely tight elastic band around your legs and hips always trying to snap them back together,” Stephanie said. “That is what Ben feels when he is trying to move.”

But the family wasn’t willing to give up.

After extensive research, they found a doctor in the U.S. who offers a specialized spinal surgery.

“They would open up the base of Ben’s spine and use electricity to pinpoint the nerves that are connected to the damaged part of his brain,” Stephanie said.

The nerves that connect the damaged part of the brain to the spastic muscles are then severed, she added.


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“It doesn’t cure cerebral palsy because it’s not curable. It doesn’t fix his brain, but it severs the part of it that causes that.”

Ben would require extensive therapy following the surgery, but the family is hopeful he would eventually be able to walk on his own.

“He has to relearn everything: how to walk, how to move, just the feeling of not relying on that spasticity anymore because that will be gone,” Stephanie said.

After extensive testing, the three-year-old was recently approved for the surgery.

It comes with a hefty price tag. The family estimates the cost of the surgery, transportation, hotel stays and therapy to be around $100,000.

His parents say it would be worth it.

“Just being able to move like his brother, to be able to run around the yard and to chase a soccer ball,” his father Dallas Weller said.

If Ben doesn’t receive the surgery, he will likely be in a wheelchair by the age of five, his mother added.

“There is no insurance company in Canada that will cover this so we were literally going to sell everything because … this is our kid, and we want the best for him,” Stephanie said.


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As Ben sits on the waiting list for the surgery, friends and colleagues started a GoFundMe page that has since raised thousands of dollars.

The family says the community support has been overwhelming.

“You have to do what you’ve got to do for your kids. Everything else is all material,” Stephanie said.

“And if we can give Ben the opportunity to walk, there’s nothing that I would not do for him for that at all.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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