We are thrilled to bring you this week’s Ponte Vedran of the Week – Leslie Weed. When Amy Groshell was asked to pay it forward and nominate someone she believed loves ALL things Ponte Vedra Beach, gives endlessly and supports the community wholeheartedly, she didn’t hesitate to let us know about Leslie Weed. Leslie has been a long time resident of Ponte Vedra Beach for 30+ years, loves the climate, stretches of beach and the morning’s beautiful sunrise. As Founder and Volunteer at HEAL Foundation (Helping Enrich Autistic Lives), Leslie knows the struggles of families affected by autism and all disabilities and dedicates her life to camps, programs and technology to enrich their lives. Say hello to Leslie Weed and learn more about HEAL Foundation.
Name: Leslie Weed
Occupation: Founder and Volunteer at HEAL Foundation – Helping Enrich Autistic Lives
Where I grew up: Vero Beach, Florida
A Ponte Vedran since: 1986
Other Places I have lived: Amelia Island, Florida
My favorite thing about Ponte Vedra: Our climate and beautiful stretch of beaches.
My least favorite thing about Ponte Vedra: Traffic on A1A.
In my spare time I like to: Walk the beach every morning and take photographs of the sunrise. Spending time at our property on the marsh, “Weed Fish Camp” with husband Bobby, daughters Haley, Carley, Lanier and great friends.
Ponte Vedran you most admire: Jimmy Stockton, a Ponte Vedra legend and great storyteller, who had a great hand in developing the Ponte Vedra and Sawgrass area.
Dream Vacation other than Ponte Vedra: Bobby and I went on my dream vacation last summer with friends. We boarded a 12 passenger riverboat and cruised through the lochs of Scotland playing golf everyday along the way. It was fabulous and my dream is to do it again!
If I could invite anyone over to dinner – 2 Ponte Vedrans and one famous person – who would you invite: Locals, Vicki and Jimmy Stockton and Jimmy Buffett. I suspect there would be a lot of great stories and laughs!
Last time you went to the beach: This morning at sunrise.
Tell us about HEAL: What does HEAL stand for?: Helping Enrich Autistic Lives. (It is important to note, HEAL assists ALL disabilities).
How did HEAL come about and why: Our youngest daughter Lanier, age 22, non-verbal and profoundly affected by autism is our inspiration for creating HEAL. Twenty years ago there were very little resources and support in our area. My husband Bobby and I created HEAL to fill the void, raising funds to start summer camps, programs, and educational technology for schools. The summer camps, typically have over 350 participants.
Through our initiative iHEAL –“iPads Enriching Autistic Lives”, HEAL has gifted nearly 500 iPads ($200 K) to ESE classrooms in 5 counties. iPads are a revolutionary for teaching students who cannot speak, but can type, point and swipe pictures to communicate, giving them a “voice”.
Our other initiative “Wheelin’ & HEALin’”, HEAL has delivered nearly 200 ($90 K) trikes to local schools K-12 so students can learn to ride bikes for physical fitness, coordination and fun. HEAL will continue our initiative of gifting iPads and Trikes to local schools.
When was HEAL founded: Since its inception in 2004, HEAL has raised over $3 million for our cause. In 2017 we added a board of young professionals – “TEAM HEAL” Together Everyone Achieves More. They work alongside our amazing Board of Directors, volunteering, raising funds and awareness, attracting the younger generation to our cause.
What events does HEAL organize: We organize 3 major fundraisers, “HEAL Gala and Bobby Weeds Golf Gig”, “HEAL Autism Walk at The Zoo”, with over 4,000 participants (both cancelled this year). Our Jr Board, TEAM HEAL, hosts a Corn Hole Tournament “Bags and Brews”. We also help organize summer camps and programs.
How can the public help with HEAL? Donations are the best and very appreciated! We need volunteers at fundraising events and some camps.
Favorite Ponte Vedra restaurant: Palm Valley Fish Camp
Favorite place for a cocktail: Sitting on my back porch with Bobby taking in the beauty and exhaling.
Favorite movie and why: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” – I saw it when I was 10. I had posters from the movie of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I was an adventurous tomboy and made everyone call me “Butch” after Paul Newman’s character.
Favorite book: “A Land Remembered” – A Fantastic historical novel about pioneer life in Florida spanning a century from 1868 to 1968, I have read it 3 times. I am a second generation Floridian and loved hearing stories about the “old Florida days” from my father who grew up in Tampa.
Something most people don’t know about you: In my “previous life” I owned swimwear and resort wear shops called “Suits Me Fine” in Amelia Island and Ponte Vedra Beach FL. We live on the most stunning stretch of beaches, and back-in-the-day, they were complimented by beautiful swimsuits from “Suits Me Fine”.
Anything else you would like us to know: My daughter Lanier, profoundly affected by autism and has never spoken a word. We were stunned when at 16 she began communicating typing on an iPad, it is our miracle. We discovered she is highly intelligent, she has typed volumes to us. She resides at “Peace of Heart Home” in Ponte Vedra, the staff utilizes iPad’s to communicate with the residents. Today 1 in 54 US school aged children are diagnosed with autism. Boys are 4 times more affected than girls, 40% of those with autism cannot speak. The need is dire. It is my honor and privilege to work with families and their loved ones and I greatly appreciate the collected effort of all who Help Enrich Autistic Lives in our community.
For more information on HEAL or volunteer/donation opportunities, you can contact HEAL at 904-716-4198 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.