Take a moment and picture in your head the classic version of Santa Clause. A chubby, cheerful, old guy? Lush fluffy white beard, rosy red cheeks, and a deep jolly laugh? A big fan of cookies and milk? A leader of a vast array of minions willing to put in work to answer the Christmas wishes of children of every shape and size?
That Santa is so last week bro. Its time to recognize what Santa really is like. A buff, fit, focused woman? Trapezius muscles to die for and spray tanned cheeks for days? A big fan of chardonnay and donuts? A leader of a vast array of minions willing to put in work to answer the Christmas wishes of children of every shape and size? Well I guess some things never change.
In the midst of being co-owner of a small local business, a fitness and personal training center in Summerlin called Fitness In Motion . While raising 2 children, including a 9 month old, and young boy with more energy than the Hoover dam. Working as a spin instructor at EoS fitness. Helping run a charitable organization called Defending Freedom . AND working to help feed homeless veterans downtown, amongst countless other one off charity efforts. This amazing woman, LeAnna Marchese organized, and executed a plan to make Christmas merry for 251 kids this holiday season.
Working with the Freedom of Praise ministries in downtown Las Vegas, she got the names and ages of 251 children. From just a few months old, ranging into their teens. She wanted to make sure the true meaning of Christmas, the season of giving, wasn’t off limits to anyone. As hard as she and her family work for what they have, she wanted to make sure to spread the wealth to those not as materially blessed as they are.
A life long Las Vegan, she has what could best be described as a cult following. There are no compounds in the middle of the desert, and no one is drinking any Kool-Aid, but her followers are just as devout. As often as she calls out for help, she receives the help she needs. In this is probably her greatest strength. The loyalty and support she inspires in others.
To find the roots of her strong foundation of support, she need look no further than her immediate family. Her husband Jess is a local attorney who is no stranger to philanthropic efforts himself. Her mother Rowena is like her own personal Mary Poppins, always there to care for the children, appearing out of thin air to provide the warmth, and security of knowing the kids are always safe and cared for no matter how stretched LeAnna’s time is.
Outside of her family she continues to find a plethora of support from friends, co-workers, clients, extended family, former co-workers and members of the community. All willing to pitch in time, money, sweat, and tears. Whatever is needed.
In the fall alone you could have found her organizing a 9/11 Freedom Ride spin-a-thon to raise money for various causes. This year it was to support the efforts of Staff Sergeant Travis Mills.
In memorial of the October 1st shooting she collected clothing and supplies for another local charity Project 150 . She ran a 10 mile race, attended her son’s little league games, collected Halloween candy to distribute to underprivileged kids, and collected jackets for local children. She dressed up as a Star Wars pilot to lift the spirits of hospitalized children with Cure4theKids. Helped to make sure 150 thanksgiving meals were dished out downtown. And volunteered with Wreaths Across America to lay wreaths at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
That was her FALL. That is more than most people do in a year to help others. Again, all while raising 2 kids, running a small business, holding another job as a spin instructor, and being a mom, daughter, and friend.
All that brings us back to this weekend. After getting the names of 251 kids, she distributed names to volunteers willing to donate their money, if not their time to help support her efforts. Every person who took a child’s name was given a wish list of 3 items. Some were as simple as a basketball, some as high end as a new laptop. Bicycles were a popular item up and down the list.
After spending more time at Walmart than the American Psychiatric Association could possibly deem healthy in order to buy for kids who’s names she had kept, she threw together a wrapping party where donors dropped off the gifts. She made sure every child on the list had been accounted for. That all gifts were organized by kid, and put into a U-Haul to be taken to the Freedom of Praise ministries. After that exhausting effort (well, I was exhausted anyways) she then went back out to Walmart to fill in the gaps for any kids that maybe hadn’t gotten as much as others.
On next to no sleep, this modern day Santa Clause, with the help of her elves, helped to bring Christmas cheer to the hearts and smiles of children and families in the Las Vegas community on Saturday afternoon.
She didn’t do it for any praise. She isn’t getting awards. There are no financial gains for her. She does it out of the goodness of her heart. Her intrinsic nature to help others. To show her young son, and now daughter the good in the world, and how to be the best PEOPLE that they can be. To lead by example, and whether intentionally or not, to inspire others to be the best they can be, personally, professionally, and socially.
Everyone gets stressed during the holidays. There are numerous reasons. Different stresses drawing your attention, sapping your energy. If you need it, draw inspiration from this modern Santa. Dig a little deeper and make sure to make not just your world, but your whole community a better place.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Like all great leaders, LeAnna will certainly deflect all praise, casting it upon the countless number of people that support her efforts, while accepting any responsibility upon her own shoulders. But much like the tri-cep dips she forced upon me, I’ll ask that others join me in forcing to accept our thanks, and respect for her efforts
Just remember, not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear American flag leggings and Nike runners.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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