One in 59 children are diagnosed with autism. Twenty years ago, it was one in one thousand. Leslie Weed had minimal support, resources or direction when she was told that her young daughter, Lanier, was autistic twenty years ago, so she set out to seek, find and create what needed to happen to support her family and specifically her daughter. Her perseverance is beyond inspiring. She has navigated uncharted territory — stepping in front of Congress, chasing after and meeting doctors nationwide for answers, and enrolling celebrities like Jenny McCarthy into fundraising. Alongside her husband and three daughters, she created the HEAL Foundation — Helping Enrich Autistic Lives. Through her nonprofit, HEAL, Leslie has brought people together to support and love autistic kids through camps, special events, charitable contributions for classrooms, and the big breakthrough of funding iPads for austic children which has unlocked their silent voices. The documentary, Unlocked by Henry Corra, will feature Lanier’s story and will be released next year. The beauty of faith, commitment to something bigger, and serving has provided Leslie with a life of purpose as she continues to be fueled to make a difference.
When Leslie’s youngest daughter, Lanier, was almost two years old, she noticed distinct developmental and emotional changes. Lanier drastically shifted from normal function and growth into a space where Leslie knew something wasn’t right. After months of chasing doctors, experiencing severe emotions and breakdowns in Lanier, and finally getting the attention needed, Lanier was diagnosed with autism — a diagnosis at the time that didn’t have a lot of research or clarity behind it. So, Leslie became the woman who found it. She used her voice, her hands, her feet, her heart and her faith to be guided into something bigger.
The HEAL Foundation was created as a result of Leslie knowing that all families of autism needed support. She knew she had received the Light; and she wanted to give it to others. First, she put her attention on camps and classroom financial support for autistic kids. And then incredible fundraisers and galas, inviting celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and thousands of guests through the years. Fundraising has allowed the purchase of hundreds of iPads to support autistic children in unlocking their voices. Now, Lanier at age 23, is capable of ‘speaking’ through her iPad and does so with profound intelligence and wisdom. The documentary, Unlocked by Henry Corra, will feature Lanier's story and will be released next year. This is Leslie’s extraordinary story of faith and perseverance — and her greatest joy of creating and serving through HEAL.
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