Abraham Lincoln, Indiana Jones and even Dr. Seuss tales were all known for their hats. And while you won’t find Mary Leuca’s hat in Hollywood or the history books, you can see her ever-changing volunteer ‘hat’ on display at Akron Children’s Hospital and the 2014 Holiday Tree Festival at the John S. Knight Center.
“I wear many hats, I guess you’d say,” said Mary Leuca. “I’m a volunteer, which means I help the hospital in whatever capacity I can. In life you have to make time for what’s important that’s why I make time to help.”
After 34 years in the banking industry, Leuca was ready to retire and ready for a change.
“My mom was active in helping the community, and I saw that as a child,” she said. “I liked seeing the difference my mom made in someone’s life, in the community. I hope to do the same.”
A self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, Leuca has run the gamut of volunteer jobs at the hospital. She’s helped in the volunteer office, read to patients, baked cookies with kids, and guided families through the hallways. Currently, she acts as the point-person in the surgery waiting room.
Here, Mary greets families, answers the phone, locates doctors, gets patient updates, calms and comforts families, and shares a smile with anyone who needs a friend.
Leuca is at the hospital – rain or shine – every week, year round. Yet, if you try to put a spotlight on her volunteer work, Leuca is quick to run out of it and focus it on someone else. She’s humble. She’s energetic. She’s all heart.
“I do what all the other volunteers at this hospital do,” she said. “We are here because we want to help, because we can help.”
Giving back to Holiday Tree Festival
As the chair and treasurer of this year’s Holiday Tree Festival, Leuca also helps raise funds and awareness for Akron Children’s.
“The Holiday Tree Festival is an enormous undertaking for our volunteers but we do it because we love giving and giving to the hospital,” said Leuca. “Everyone thinks there’s so much to do as the chair but there are thousands of volunteers and 37 committees who work tirelessly to make this event happen. I don’t do all the work. It’s everyone else.”
Leuca not only acts as chair and treasurer of the event, but also as a volunteer who’s at the festival every day to help wherever an extra set of hands is needed. There’s no job too big or too small that she won’t step forward and help with because she enjoys seeing it all come together.
“My favorite part of the Holiday Tree Festival is walking in the Knight Center when it’s totally empty and then watching the decorators come in day by day to bring the space to life. It’s like watching a painting being made,” Leuca said. “The look on the kids’ faces when they see the finished piece is truly priceless.”
Thanks to the unwavering commitment of underwriters, sponsors and volunteers, more than $4.7 million has been raised through the Holiday Tree Festival for Akron Children’s.
“What’s amazing, too, about the Tree Festival is that all of this – the trees, wreaths, decorations, delivery trucks, everything – is donated,” Leuca said. “Akron is a very, very giving community. It’s heart-warming and why I feel proud and privileged to be a part of this community – both Akron and the hospital family.”
While the venue may change, Leuca’s ‘job’ as a volunteer is always the same – helping those who need it. “I’ve lived in Akron my whole life. This is home and where I want to give back. I truly enjoy it.”
The 33rd annual Holiday Tree Festival runs through Nov. 30 at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. Admission to the festival is free.