Community rallies to support stroke victim

The Strathmore community has rallied to support a family in need, raising money for a local stroke victim through a variety of fundraisers.

Russ McNeill, a well-known taxi driver, suffered a severe stroke Nov. 13, leaving him hospitalized. He has remained a patient since.

“He got a massive stroke in November… and normally when it is a massive stroke, people don’t ever come back,” said Chelsea Byman, McNeill’s step-daughter.

“Seeing him in the hospital the way he was, it was horrifying, but I was more horrified for my mom because that’s her husband.”

Since McNeill’s stroke, Byman has hosted a bottle drive, which raised over $1,000, as well as a fundraiser through Mike’s Bar and Grill, which raised over $1,000 through ticket sales, a silent auction, and assorted other direct donations.

To date, an estimated $3,000 has been raised to support McNeill and his family.

“Words can’t explain how I felt after the night ended on Saturday (Jan. 21). I felt so much love from the community that I don’t think I will ever be able to pay back what they did for my family and to help Russ,” said Byman. “I would like to host maybe a 50/50 draw or something in the next couple months, but … I don’t want to keep doing fundraisers when I don’t have an update or I don’t know what is going on.”

According to Byman, McNeill was paralyzed on his right side, as the stroke was on the left hemisphere of his brain. The clot remains inside, as she was informed doctors could not remove it.

It is currently being debated as to whether Russ will be moved from Carewest to Ponoka, as according to Byman, she was told it is a location better suited to care for patients recovering from a stroke.

“He was kind of learning how to talk and he was getting up on a cane and a walker to try and at least get some mobility, and then last week he ended up back at Foothills Hospital,” said Byman. “They think he had a minor stroke because his lip started drooping down more, and he had things that he was able to do before that he can’t now.”

She added for those who may not have known McNeill, he was a long-time taxi driver in Strathmore who was dedicated to the community.

“He would help everybody. He is the type of person who, if it was -40, he would pick you up on the side of the road and wouldn’t even charge you,” said Byman.

For those who may be interested in supporting the family, Byman is able to be contacted via Facebook, or email (

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times