Candice Vetter
Villager Staff
RUSSELL – The Russell Agricultural Society has confirmed the masters of ceremonies for the 15th annual Ladies Night, as former Russell residents Michael Miller and Chelsea Miller. On Fri., May 4, 500 ladies and dozens of volunteers will converge on the arena in Russell to celebrate the “Hollywood Fab Fifteen Gala” to raise funds for Parkinson’s Canada.

Michael Miller was an active member of the Russell Lions Club and was a keen curler in Russell until the family moved to Manotick. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease three years ago. Chelsea is well-known as a radio personality for Live 88.5.

“Russell does lots of good things for charities,” said Chelsea in a telephone interview with The Villager. “So it’s nice to go back and help out.”

Chelsea is known for being funny on-air and reports that her father is even funnier. “He’s a hilarious human being,” she said. “We [she and her brother] got our sense of humour from both our parents. It’s going to be fun to be on stage with Dad.” She also said since he has developed his condition the timing of his one-liners is a little off. “Actually, he’s funnier now.”

The family has decided to look at the positives whenever possible. When asked if she notices much difference since her father’s diagnosis, she said, “The only impact on the family we’ve noticed is a need for more patience.” Michael has a type of Parkinson’s Disease which causes a lack of mobility, so he moves more slowly and stiffly than he used to. Said Chelsea, “Things take a little longer now is all.”

Mike is a familiar face to long time Russell residents. He has also been known in the past as the daredevil Awful Knawful. For 12 years in a row he made spectacular crossings of the Castor River in Russell on Canada Day. Some of his daring attempts included walking a tightrope over the river. Unfortunately he ordered a rope that was too short at the dam where his usual attempts were made, and had to move upstream to near Concession St. where the river was narrower.

Another time he drove a snowmobile across the water just upstream from the dam, and surprised the crowd and himself when he made it to the other side. He’s used a toboggan with an outboard motor, a motorcycle and other contrivances.

“After 12 times we [the Russell Lions Club] ran out of stunts that were safe enough for me to do and would still be entertaining,” Mike said in a telephone interview. The family moved to Manotick in 2001. His fondness for Russell is one of the reasons he was happy to be asked to participate in Ladies Night. “We miss Russell, but we always wanted a place on the water.”

About four years ago he found out he had Parkinson Disease when he was visiting a neurologist for another reason. “The doctor said, ‘Now that we’ve dealt with your other issue, I think you may have Parkinson’s.’ He had noticed my walking gait, that my right side was stiff and right arm wasn’t swinging easily.”

Mike had thought he had arthritis and was aging. He found that his fine motor skills were affected, as well as stiff muscle response, lack of flexibility and balance. Of course it affects the right side the most and he is right-handed. “It’s awkward to tie shoelaces or brush my teeth,” he said. “Shaving is hard, or buttoning a shirt.”

Medication has been a boon to him and is one of the reasons he is keen to support research. “I can’t imagine how I would function without medications,” he said. “There isn’t a cure, but research for treatment to reduce symptoms is very important.”

But all in all he is not unhappy. “If I had to choose between a handful of afflictions, Parkinson’s is not the worst.” He stresses that keeping as physically active as possible is crucial to management of the disease. “Studies have been done showing physical activity is very, very important.” He bowls, plays darts and has done aquafit, among many other activities. “You need to keep the muscle memory, so the memory isn’t of doing nothing.”

The third MC is a familiar face to Ladies Night regulars. Sebastien Pilon, who has volunteered at the event almost since it started, will also be on stage with the Millers.

Organizers report that tickets are selling fast so women who wish to attend this year’s gala event should buy soon. Tickets are $50, reserved seating, and must be purchased in advance. Buy online at Russellfair.com/our-events/ladies-night/, russellladiesnight@gmail.com or by calling Judy McFaul at 613-445-4161.

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