City’s Notre Dame Club lends a helping hand to Jersey Shore family

City’s Notre Dame Club lends a helping hand to Jersey Shore family

What began as a routine football practice for 19-year-old Caleb Leone, of Jersey Shore, on Aug. 14, 2018, turned into an unexpected long-lasting injury — Caleb left the field having had a seizure and a stroke, which completely paralyzed the right side of his body. Unlike a scrape, however, Caleb’s injuries are sadly not a quick fix.

“His accident has been life-changing for our entire family,” said Danielle Leone, Caleb’s mother, “but we continue to take each day … with as much faith and optimism as we can.”

But the Leones have not had to suffer alone. The family has received the love and support of the community in this trying time, one of the strongest supporters being the Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport, who donated a specialized exercise bike to aid Caleb in his recovery.

The Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport held their first meeting in 1996 and has helped the community and people like Caleb through monetary donations and volunteerism, such as repainting public fixtures like fences or sprucing up nursing home flower gardens.

“Christian life, community service and educational and athletic excellence,” said Nancy Dorman, recording secretary of the Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport, constitute the shared missions of the Club’s members — as well as supporting the University of Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame Club hosts various social events throughout the year, including their monthly membership meetings from August through March, football game watch parties, prayer breakfasts, bus trips to Notre Dame football games and an annual Christmas party, said Dorman, but members do not have to be University of Notre Dame alumni to join. The Notre Dame Club also supports students attending Notre Dame by presenting them with bookstore allowances and scholarship money.

But where does Caleb Leone fit into the equation? The Lend a Helping Hand project, which has benefited 29 families and many non-profit organizations since the Club’s inception, was established to help those with a special need, said Dorman. The Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport sees the Lend a Helping Hand Project as one of their most important undertakings. Club member Kelly Watson suggested Caleb be considered as 2019’s Lend a Helping Hand candidate.

The Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport’s generosity helped the Leone family in the form of a specialized exercise bike that is infinitely adaptable to Caleb’s abilities.

“Repetition is key with his injury so having this bike allows us to carry over activities he is doing in therapy to the home setting,” said Leone. “Since each day is different, this flexibility allows us to adjust to his day and still allow him to work what he can.”

This is not an ordinary stationary bike — depending on his ability on any given day, Caleb can use just his arms, his legs or a combination of both. The exercise bike will help Caleb continue making progress at home long after the Leones reach their limit for therapy. The Leones are determined to help their son in any way they can.

“We have so many exciting things planned to help Caleb, including stem cell treatments,” said Leone, “With his recovery, the sky’s the limit, so we will take every avenue to give him the best recovery we can.”

Even Caleb is taking on recovering from his injury with a smile and a positive attitude.

“He has had many obstacles, but he continues to go through each day with a smile on his face,” said Leone.

Although the road to a full recovery is difficult to see at this point, Caleb continues to work hard to get there.

“Caleb is literally the strongest person I know,” said Leone, whose goal is to transform the basement of the Leone household into a therapy gym for Caleb. “This bike is a key component to help us achieve this,” said Leone.

The adage, “It takes a village,” could not be more true for the Leones — the constant support of the Jersey Shore community and the Notre Dame Club of Greater Williamsport has enabled them to keep pushing forward.

“The Notre Dame Club has been so supportive and their donation is incredible,” said Leone, who adds the Club has taken the initiative to meet Caleb and the Leone family and offer support wherever it is needed, allowing the Leones to focus on other areas of Caleb’s care and needs. “We are so thankful for this,” said Leone, “it is so comforting to … know we are not alone.”

“The journey is challenging, but we have to believe we were picked for a reason and know this boy of ours will move mountains,” said Leone.