Member’s grief eased by building on memory of son’s generous spirit
By SHERRY HALBROOK
For PEF Region 4 member Wendy Leonard 2016 brought heartbreak for her and her family as they watched her son, Steven A. Leonard Jr., 31, fight a rare and aggressive form of cancer, mucoepidermoid carcinoma, which took his life November 13 of that year.
Now, two years later, Leonard said she is finding comfort in efforts underway to both honor Steven’s generous and courageous spirit and to benefit others in his name.
“Steven did his work-study in the Canisius College Griff Center that helps students with accessibility, academics and other issues,” said Wendy Leonard, who is a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the state Education Department’s Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services (ACCES) in Syracuse. “Steven also participated in the campus ministry program as a missionary to Venezuela and Jamaica. He shared my interest in helping people, especially those with disabling conditions.”
Steven’s years as a member of the Canisius College lacrosse team, “The Griffs,” are being honored by a campaign to create a mentoring center there to be called the “Scuba Zone,” a name inspired by his nickname of Scuba on the team and his dedication to mentoring his fellow students. The Scuba Zone opens in January. The hope is to benefit 500 students or more every year.
“Steven shined a very distinctive light for his fellow students,” his mother said. “We’re hoping to raise more online donations to support the Scuba Zone at https://app1.canisius.edu/canisiusfund/faces/donorform.xhtml. Once you are on this site, just go under ‘Other Gift Designation,’ and type in: Steven A. Leonard, Jr. ’07 Memorial Endowment Fund and then continue from there.” She added that donors may also mail a check to the attention of Director of Stewardship Ginny Dadaian, Canisius College, 2001 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14208. “Please list your name, address, city, state, ZIP code, phone and email.”
Other projects have been launched by the Steven Leonard Jr. Foundation Inc. that was founded by Steven’s family members, especially his wife and his brother Mark Leonard who also played lacrosse with The Griffs.
The foundation’s supporters have created a Go Fund Me page called “Burpees for Steven Leonard Jr. Foundation. The page’s founder, Giovanni Mion, pledges, “For every dollar donated, I will do one burpee (squat-thrust used in full-body strength building). I want to help these kids find the path of success.”
Mark Leonard has taken on an e-commerce business created by Steve called “Blurbs Against Buffalo” that sells Buffalo-themed T-shirts and playing cards. Mark hopes these sales, too, can help support the foundation’s work.
Wendy Leonard said she also is very proud of yet another project the foundation sponsored in the Buffalo area. This project supported research at Erie County Medical Center into mucoepidermoid carcinoma and the establishment of a treatment room in Steven’s name.
“Working with the ECMC foundation, we raised substantial funds in 2017 to establish a treatment room in the hospital’s cancer center for ambulatory care,” Wendy Leonard said. That room opened in November 2018.
“I hope sharing our story of finding ways to remember Steven and continue his best efforts, may help others who are grieving for those they have lost,” Wendy said.