Sussex Family YMCA member Len Leshem, age 83, will be biking five hours at a time for 10 months to raise money for Special Olympics Delaware.
The 50-hour total is in honor of Special Olympics Delaware’s 50th anniversary, and Leshem’s fundraiser will culminate in a sprint tri relay with two SODE athletes Sunday, Sept. 13, at Lums Pond.
“If I can help someone else, it’s just a good feeling,” said Leshem, who’s been a member of the Y for 20 years and involved with Special Olympics for more than 30 years as a Hall of Fame member, volunteer and coach for long-distance running, cross-country skiing, cycling, swimming and basketball.
“About the time I started doing triathlons, I thought it would be appropriate if I did something to give back,” Leshem said. He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Delaware, much of which has been tied to his completion of triathlons.
Leshem began his fitness journey later in life, starting with a 5K at about 50 years old. He has since completed eight Ironman triathlons, including four world championships in Kona, Hawaii. He swims, bikes, runs and lifts at the Y every day, inspiring other members.
“He is here every single day. If he's not in the pool, he's on one of the bikes or he runs a little on the treadmill. He is incredibly sweet and an inspiration to everyone,” said Lori Waldee-Warden, branch assistant physical director of fitness. She said other Y members and staff tend to join Leshem on a bike or machine nearby to keep him company during daily workouts and the five-hour blocks of time for his fundraiser. Five percent of the money he raises during this latest challenge will go back to the Y, Delaware’s leading nonprofit for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
The YMCA of Delaware is an official training partner of Special Olympics Delaware due to continuously offering free access to its pools for teams and athletes to train, and for local competitions. Healthy living and inclusiveness are the threads that tie the two organizations together.
“Len’s inspiration is a shining example of the same courage and determination demonstrated by the Special Olympics athletes,” said Jon Buzby, Special Olympics director of Unified Champion Schools.
Leshem is accepting donations in-house at the YMCA during his rides. To donate online, go to www.classy.org/give/270678/#!/donation/checkout.