LEAP Wishes Everyone A Joyous Holiday Season

This year’s LEAP Foundation DC Toy Drive and Holiday Celebration, held Saturday, Dec. 15, was nothing short of a miracle for some in attendance. In its 10th year, the event, hosted by Dr. Clayton Lawrence, President and CEO, along with an army of friends, family and supporters, aims to spread Christmas joy to less fortunate individuals and families in the Washington, D.C., area. And for the past decade, it has more than exceeded that goal.

To date, the nonprofit’s annual Toy Drive has allowed the organization to donate more than 2,200 gifts to those in need. A new tradition began last year, which continued into 2018, with 13 children, along with their parents, receiving a happy Christmas thanks to the generosity of LEAP supporters.

“It goes without saying that none of this would be possible without the generosity and contributions throughout the year of the caring individuals who are committed to working with LEAP Foundation DC to meet its mission to bridge the gap between hope and achievement,” Dr. Lawrence said. “We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams and reach their goals. As such, no one should go without during the holiday season. This is a time of joy for most but, unfortunately, for some, hard times overshadow the spirit of the holidays. We hope to allow everyone to experience a joyous and peaceful holiday season.”

This year’s adoptees include two special Latino Student Fund (LSF) families. Between the two, six children and four adults regularly participate in the organization’s programming, which ensures that the Latino population is able to pursue every educational opportunity possible. LSF President and CEO Maria Fernanda Borja collaborates with Dr. Lawrence each year, who said that, without the open hearts of those who participate, the Martinez Abrego and Torres-Rivas family would not otherwise experience Christmas.

Active with the Latino Student Fund for four years, the Martinez Abrego family is led by Malba and Jorge, both from El Salvador. Malba is a receptionist at the National Cathedral School and has volunteered to drive supplies from the LSF office to the Riverdale tutoring site each week, while her husband is employed as an electrician. Together, they are making only $20,000 to $40,000 each year to support their family of five. The oldest of the children, Maximilian, is a bright seventh grader, specifically gifted in math, who hopes to attend DeMatha Catholic High School. His sister, Sofia, is a promising first grader who works on advanced worksheets, as does her older brother, Diego, a sixth grader. Malba and Jorge, both high school graduates, have big dreams for their children.

Idania and her husband, Jorge Louis, of the Torres-Rivas family, are only bringing in $10,000 to $20,000 from Jorge’s wait staff position each year to support their family of five. Although they don’t have a car and rely solely on public transportation, Fernanda Borja said the family is the first to enter tutoring at LSF every Saturday with the biggest smiles. Idania is a homemaker, who sees each of their children off to school each day, including Minerva, an eighth-grade student who has demonstrated big improvements in her motivation in academics since participating in the program, Leonardo, third grade, and Alejandro, first grade.

In addition to the holiday festivities, LEAP Foundation DC recognized Rashard Barnes, this year’s recipient of the Eleanor Holmes Norton Scholarship. The second of its kind, the $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a student who, in the face of adversity, has continued on the path to higher education. Barnes, 18, is a junior at KIPP DC College Preparatory, where he has been recognized as an honor roll student despite an early diagnosis with a learning disability. He plays basketball for both his high school and church, St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he also serves as a volunteer for its homeless outreach program. LEAP Foundation DC has awarded the scholarship in support of Barnes’ plans to pursue higher education at Marshall University, where he intends to major in sports management.

Have a joyous and and peaceful holiday season.