‘River Valley angels’ give back in big way

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RUMFORD — A fundraising event for a Mexico man who has given to the community for years provided more than just money in a time of need.

Greg Arsenault, former owner of Maddy’s Pizza in Mexico, was in tears as he was hugged by organizers Kim Chiasson and Cathy Arsenault in his room at Rumford Hospital on Tuesday.

The benefit, planned after Arsenault nearly lost his life to a blood infection and was forced to close his restaurant, was a huge success, Chiasson said.

Saturday afternoon people crowded into 49 Franklin, taking chances on a Chinese auction where 129 items were donated, Chiasson said. Later in the evening, all seats available were filled as a live auction took place.

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Red Sox tickets for Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary went for $465 to Carlene Nichols.

A donation of two cords of wood from area high school students Ryan and Nathan Nichols had a winning bid of $380, Chiasson said.

The crowd also competed in the auction on two large items. A Patriots jacket valued at $400 and a donation of a day excursion to Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, N.H., made by the owner Tim O’Neil drew a battle of auction paddles. The high bidder for the jacket was Debbie Moon and for the excursion, Gary Dolloff of Rumford.

Arsenault had met O’Neil when he was the Mexico recreation director and organized the annual Rally Car races, he said.

“Tim also has donated money to the recreation park,” Arsenault said.

Both Arsenault and his wife, Norma, were amazed at the outpouring of support and donations they received. The couple has spent years giving to benefits and helping those facing hard times in the River Valley.

“When you do that for a benefit you don’t do it with the expectation that you are going to get something out of it,” Arsenault said.

“It just came back tenfold,” Norma said.

Arsenault, who is still recovering at the Rumford Hospital, was able to see and talk with those who attended the event Saturday by using a video-audio feed on the Internet. Those in attendance were able to chat with him through a laptop computer and send wishes for a speedy recovery.

Aresnault said he was taking things a day at a time and was hoping to leave the hospital after he completed his physical and occupational therapy.

Norma Arsenault said they were not sure what the future would be once her husband is released from the hospital.

“We don’t know what we are up against,” she said. “We are just going to take it a day at a time.”

Arsenault credited the hospital with his recovery.

“They saved my life,” he said.

Donations of money were still coming in after the weekend benefit and the owner of 49 Franklin, Scot Grassette, who donated the use of his function hall, was also donating a percentage from the food that was sold.

Arsenault said he didn’t know how to say thank you to everyone who participated in the benefit.

“They’re just angels,” he said. “River Valley angels.”

ecox@sunjournal.com

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