At the age of 25, Richard Leon was asked by a friend to dedicate a week of his summer to being an MDA Summer Camp Counselor.
“It sounded and turned out to be the perfect thing to do,” says Rich.
His first task was to draw his first-year camper, Tommy, out of his shyness.
“We instantly bonded and have been a counselor and camper duo for the past five years,” Rich says. “Tommy has since graduated from MDA Summer Camp, but we still make a point to meet up a few times throughout the year to catch up. He means a lot to me.”
Rich’s experience volunteering left him hungry for more.
“When I first attended camp and met Tommy, I couldn’t help but support MDA,” Rich says. “But I wanted to do more, whatever I could do, to help give the incredible opportunity of summer camp to all kids living with muscular dystrophy, and to help local MDA offices across the nation provide individuals with help and services they need,” says Rich.
MDA Summer Camp also changed his professional life. Now, at the age of 30, Rich is a council member in Cape Coral, FL and aims to be the voice of a new generation.
“Working with MDA has changed my life; the people that you meet, the interactions you have, the relationships you build – nothing can compare,” shares Rich. “The lessons I have learned about compassion, patience and how precious life is has allowed me not only to become a better person but a better representative for the people.”
He has raised fundraising bail for MDA’s Lock-Up program and has encouraged other city leaders to get involved in MDA’s mission knowing the impact they can help make. He makes it a point to visit and thank local fire fighters who Fill the Boot for MDA families every year.
When it came to a record-setting storm like Hurricane Irma, Rich experienced firsthand the need to galvanize communities and authorities to help families in need.
“Tommy’s family got hit with the brunt of the storm, and they didn’t have power and needed supplies,” shares Rich, “In just a matter of hours, I gathered supplies, and our local MDA office and fire fighters took care of the rest, it was so amazing on their part.
“After disasters like Irma, you realize what local government can do better for individuals with disabilities. MDA did an incredible job stepping up and helping. It’s exactly why I love serving MDA and bringing light to this organization,” he says.
Volunteering and getting to know MDA families over the years, Rich has learned of the challenges kids and adults who use wheelchairs face participating in events and enjoying local parks. That’s inspired him to take civic action.
“I have been working on different projects that could allow for easier participation in such activities,” shares Rich, “I stay motivated when seeing the good things that happen, and it really makes me want to do more.”
Learn more about volunteering with MDA.