It’s been 16 years since Leigh Leckerman, a red-haired 21-year-old who was preparing to graduate from Penn State University, was tragically killed as a direct result of addiction.
After a night of partying, the student crashed into a curb after an attempt at driving under the influence. Though it was a minor accident, Leckerman believed the vehicle to be inoperable in her impaired state of mind, and thought it best to walk home. Only minutes from her destination, another drunk driver came hurtling down the street, striking and killing her instantly.
Leckerman’s death was an unprecedented nightmare no parent ever wants to experience. Still, her father Steve and stepmother Denise are ensuring their beloved girl didn’t die in vain.
On Friday, Oct. 18 at Brookside Manor, 50 Bustleton Pike, Feasterville, the two are hosting the third annual Gift of Chance Charity Event. All proceeds benefit scholarships for individuals seeking addiction recovery. The funds are distributed through the Leigh Leckerman Foundation, a nonprofit established by the Leckermans in 2013.
Since its inception, the Gift of Chance Charity Event has raised $385,000.
This year, more than 300 guests are expected to attend the evening, which is set to include entertainment by David Uosikkinen’s The Bar Band (The Hooters), Greg Davis (Beru Revue), Kenny Aaronson (Bob Dylan, The YardBirds), Wally Smith and Steve Butler (Smash Palace), Don Van Winkle (The American Dream), Richard Bush (The A’s) and Joey DiTullio.
The event will be hosted by Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, who was formerly heard on Howard Stern’s radio show. Martling, along with a number of the artists slated to appear, are currently in recovery and open to speaking about their journeys.
Additionally, guests can enjoy dinner, a 50/50, raffle baskets and a silent auction.
“We’re excited about the event. It’s such a fun night,” said Denise. “We’re just really appreciative of the recovery community and everybody else that has supported us, and we look forward to continue to grow and to help others.”
As always, 100 percent of proceeds will benefit scholarships to help people get clean, a process that’s often expensive.
“We have to make sure there are no other resources, and they’re not just skipping over their resources to come to us. They’re not looking at it as free money, so to say. We have to make sure that all the funding options have been exhausted,” Denise explained.
The foundation helps individuals, who are selected by a committee and hail from Bucks County, New Jersey, Delaware, New York and other locations, find a treatment facility in their own neighborhood. They’re also matched with a case worker to guide them.
“Our goal is to be an emergency lifeline, get them into a detox bed, fund them, and then get them connected with case workers and people that are in a position to further their treatment,” Denise said.
Before placing somebody in a facility, Denise stressed that a foundation representative will visit the location to ensure it’s actually helping people.
“We want to make sure there’s no loopholes for them to fall through,” she said. “We also follow people through. If we’re scholarshiping somebody that is essentially homeless and we put them into treatment, once they complete treatment, we’re going to follow through and put them into housing and get them started, so they can start looking for a job.”
Ultimately, according to Denise, the goal is to not only help scholarship recipients successfully reenter society, but ensure their addiction doesn’t cost another life, whether it be their own or someone else’s.
Tickets for the Gift of Chance Charity Event are on sale now at leighshelp.org or by calling 215-377-1034 or 267-549-7989. Cost is $80, which includes dinner and the show, or $700 for a table of 10. For ad or sponsorship opportunities, contact Denise at Denise_Leckerman@leighshelp.org. For anyone who wishes to attend but cannot afford a ticket, several have been purchased and donated for this purpose. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org