Community Supports Teen’s Rehabilitation from Compressed Spine Paralysis

There are times when misfortune can forge a community’s solidarity, and for the town of Cambridge, Ontario, one of those times is now.

Last July, 15-year-old Alex Leclerc was enjoying a day with friends around his swimming pool when he did a cannon ball into the water, hitting the bottom of the pool and compressing his spine, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. Leclerc and his mother, Rachel Leonard, have been living at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto since September, an arrangement which costs the family over $2,000 a month.

Laurie Leonard and Ronald Lehnen held a fundraiser on February 2 to help Leclerc’s family with the travel and living expenses incurred by his accident.Their event featured several assets donated by the local community. Two live bands performed for free, and the Portuguese community donated and served a huge buffet for the crowd of 380 attendees. Leonard and Lehnen were also able to take in donations of over 150 items from local businesses for the raffle held during the benefit, and the Cambridge Fire Department brought along three fire trucks and a benevolent fund donation for Leclerc’s family. They also kept the evening going with 50/50 draws, door prizes and games.

“We were extremely overwhelmed by the community’ support,” Leonard said. “The event was so successful, the whole night was a highlight. Everyone had an awesome time and our event was spoken about for weeks. We still can’t believe how many people cared.”

She added that they were also able to sell all 500 tickets for the function two months before the event date.

Organizers were able to bolster knowledge of the evening by advertising in the newspaper, putting up flyers, word of mouth, emailing and using their personal Facebook pages and other forms of social media.

“An event like this takes a lot of time and dedication. The whole experience was overwhelming, a little tiring and sometimes frustrating, but it also was completely amazing and personally fulfilling. We had a lot of support from family members and people in our community,” Leonard added.

The night was a great success, and Leonard has some good advice for anyone planning a similar fundraiser.

“My advice to anyone planning a fundraiser would be to write everything down when it happens because you will forget, and you can never forget someone who gave a donation. Also, don’t ever forget about the thank you cards after the event. This also takes a lot of time and expense.”