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Providing hope

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

“Help us to help others.”

This is the mission of the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund. Fourteen years ago, Denise Leckerman lost her stepdaughter, Leigh, after she was struck by a drunken driver. Instead of turning bitter, Leckerman and her husband Steve, Leigh’s father, started this fund. All proceeds go toward helping someone afford the care they need at Livengrin: The Foundation for Addiction Recovery.

On June 24 at Brookside Manor in Feasterville-Trevose, the Leckermans will host a fundraiser featuring the Clean Getaway Troubadour series with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Mark Hudson of the Hudson Brothers. All proceeds will go to the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund.

For a good cause: After losing their daughter in a drunken-driving accident, Steve and Denise Leckerman created the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund. On June 24 at Brookside Manor in Feasterville-Trevose, the Leckerman family will host a fundraiser featuring the Clean Getaway Troubadour series with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. PHOTO: Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund / JERRY FRISHMAN

On the night Leigh died, she was out partying like any other 21 year old. She was in her last year at Penn State University, and had her whole future ahead of her. Alcohol changed everything. While under the influence, she started to drive herself home. A quarter mile away, she veered off the road and did some minor damage to her car. Afraid to drive it any farther, she decided to walk the rest of the way, and though home was right up the road, it was dark. A passing car clipped her, throwing her in the way of a second car that came barreling toward her. The driver was also under the influence, and the impact left her pronounced dead at the scene.

Though the Montgomery County DA’s office wanted Steve to help prosecute the driver, he refused. Even at that time, he was strongly involved in the recovery community, and knew the driver needed to get help despite the tragic loss of his daughter.

“We really understand the other side of it,” Denise said of the growing problem of addiction. “People are losing kids left and right.”

As a member of the board of directors at Livengrin, her husband helped start the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund, which raises money for people who need treatment but have no insurance, and pays for everything from detox to rehab. She said the goal is to “turn something like this around” into a blessing, especially for those who have exhausted all financial means.

Over the years, the Leckermans networked with many people in the world of addiction recovery. After befriending Clean and Sober Radio host Gary Hendler, he put Denise in touch with Mark Hudson and Ricky Byrd, who is a recovering addict himself. Byrd manages Clean Getaway, a nonprofit organization that uses the healing power of music to help during the recovery process.

According to the organization’s mission statement, “the goal of Clean Getaway is to break down the barriers and spread the message of hope, education, awareness and addiction resources to the sick and suffering and their families using the healing powers of music as a touchstone.”

Byrd will feature at the event his Clean Getaway Troubadour Series, an acoustic set of all recovery-based songs with the themes of hope and inspiration. Comedian Jimmy Graham will MC the event.

“It will be a fun night, not your typical boring gala,” Denise said. ••

The event is open to the public and will take place on Saturday, June 24, from 7–11 p.m. Brookside Manor is located at 50 Bustleton Pike, Feasterville-Trevose. Tickets can be purchased at livengrin.org/leigh/event. People can donate to the Scholarship Fund all year round through the website even if they cannot attend the events.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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