April 10, 2023

Fundraising to honor mother's breast cancer journey

Michael Leeder, Dr. Lee Wilke, Weston Leeder and Molly Leeder
From left: Michael Leeder, Dr. Lee Wilke, Weston Leeder and Molly Leeder

Seniors at Evansville High School are asked to complete a charitable community project before graduating, and Weston Leeder knew he wanted to do one with a personal significance.

That’s why Weston organized a community fundraiser with proceeds benefitting breast cancer research at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Weston’s mother, Molly Leeder, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and treated at UW Carbone.

“I felt like I really wanted to do something meaningful to me,” Weston said.

He decided on a bowling fundraiser—something fun for kids and adults that was indoors during the winter. When he told Tiffany Bessire, a family friend and owner of Blue Devil Bowl in Evansville, she was happy to help.

They decided to host the fundraiser on Jan. 6 and 7, both during the regular league bowling as well as a day that was open to any bowlers. Weston created and managed the sign-up sheets for bowlers, as well as lining up donations from area businesses that could be raffled to raise more funds.

“He did a really good job of promoting it,” Tiffany said.

All of Weston’s hard work and planning paid off: the public bowling day drew a big crowd that made for a busy and fun day. Between the bowling team fees and raffle proceeds, they raised about $3,000 for UW Carbone.

“We had all of the lanes full that Saturday, even people who didn’t bowl stopped by to support the event,” Weston said. “It was great.”

He and his parents delivered the donation check personally to Dr. Lee Wilke, senior medical director of clinical cancer services at UW Carbone and the breast cancer surgeon who treated Molly.

Molly felt extremely grateful for the strong community support, and she was also very proud of Weston’s hard work in planning the fundraiser.

“There was a lot of communication that he had to do with businesses and all of the people that were there,” Molly said of Weston. “That was really impressive to me, that he took the bull by the horns and did most of the work himself.”

This was Weston’s first time organizing a big community event, and he enjoyed the learning experience.

“It was challenging, but it was really rewarding,” Weston said.