Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Juneauites look out for one of their own with fundraiser

The family moved back to Juneau as their child battles cancer

Sometimes you choose your friends, and sometimes your friends choose you.

That was the case for Kelly Leonard. When her son, 7-year-old Ryan, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017, she moved back to Juneau with her children and husband to be closer to family.

“We’ve had a rough couple of years,” Leonard said in a phone interview. “Every time we feel like we’re a little bit ahead, we get another setback.”

Ryan Leonard. (Courtesy photo)

Ryan Leonard. (Courtesy photo)

But no man is an island. Sometimes, the community comes together to help out.

Candy Sims and Niki Bettridge review the list of pies sold as part of a fundraiser for Ryan Leonard, a seven-year-old boy with leukemia, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Candy Sims and Niki Bettridge review the list of pies sold as part of a fundraiser for Ryan Leonard, a seven-year-old boy with leukemia, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

“We’re just doing a pumpkin pie and peanut butter pie bake sale, and all the proceeds will go to Kelly and Ryan and the rest of the family,” said Candy Sims, a friend of Leonard’s, in a phone interview. “It’s really good to help them get into the New Year with a good start.”

The sale has been advertised online through Facebook; contributors would order pies, which could be picked up or delivered on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Sims has known Leonard since they worked together at the Don Abel Building Supply store 13 years ago. She’s known Ryan since he was born, keeping in touch even when Leonard and her family moved out of state for several years, returning only to be closer to the support of family.

Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

“Thanksgiving is a better time for us, and we thought, what better than pumpkin pie?” Sims said. “It was great to see how many people came forward to purchase a pie. It was great to see Juneau come together to support one of their own.”

Leonard said doctors caught Ryan’s leukemia early, and that the prognosis is good.

“He’s doing really well right now. They expect him to make a full recovery. We caught it very, very early,” Leonard said. “It was a very sudden diagnosis. We went in because he had been very tired, and we noticed some bruising.”

Ryan has taken the treatment like a trooper, Leonard said, soldiering through two years of chemotherapy and enduring spinal taps and thousands of chemotherapy pills. His treatment will be finished in 14 months and Ryan has responded very well to the treatment.

Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Friends of the Leonard family made pies to raise money for Ryan Leonard’s cancer treatment, selling the pies before Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

“He’s very into superheroes,” Leonard said, adding that she regarded Ryan as a superhero himself. “His big things lately have been exploring for Bigfoot and werewolves.”

Ryan’s also big into outdoor activities like hiking, Leonard said, and sports, including football. Leonard also thanked Ryan’s grandfather, a pediatrician, for his support and expertise during the treatment.

“Alaska is my home and my family,” Leonard said, thanking those who have helped her family out. “We’ve been gone for six years and people are still doing this for us.”


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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