Confronting tragedy with courage
June finalist

Confronting tragedy with courage

1042 Votes
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The Play Like Robert Foundation creates engaging environments that encourage children to get active and supports a variety of educational programs and resources throughout the community.

Sometimes, a tragedy can connect a community and bring out the best in its people. The small town of Hamilton, Montana, is one such example of empathy in action.

On July 7, 2019, Robert Anthony Leonardi, aged 9, died after being struck by a negligent and impaired driver. His death affected the entire community. People immediately came to the aid and comfort of the parents, Phil and Alyce Leonardi, two beloved high school teachers, and that outpouring still reverberates today.

Some 1,500 friends and neighbors attended the funeral to embrace the Leonardi family and share in their grief. The next day, about 200 people showed up for an impromptu run to further show their love and support. Thus began the now annual Robert’s Run. But that was only the beginning.

Rather than succumb to despair, the family chose to issue a positive call to action by forming the Play Like Robert Foundation (PLRF). And again, the community rallied to the cause. The foundation’s mission is to keep Robert’s spirit alive through learning, play and the courage to try. It provides a variety of community resources including playground and sports equipment, reading programs, soccer team sponsorships and other initiatives.

 

Inspiring action to benefit children

Robert’s Run is now the foundation’s signature event with all proceeds going to support its various programs. This event includes a 10k, 5k and one-mile run/walk. It also offers a virtual “Play Like Robert” activity that allows participants to partake in the usual run/walk or choose an activity such as hiking, fishing, painting or sewing.

“The outpouring of community support is helping to heal our family,” said Phil Leonardi, the father of Robert and communications director of the PLRF. “And through our foundation, we are all honoring Robert’s memory by helping other children learn and play with joy and purpose, just as my son did.”

The foundation is also currently working to complete a pedestrian and bicycle commuter path that connects to Daly Elementary School, which Robert attended, via Golf Course Road and Kurtz Lane. The project, in partnership with local government entities, will result in a two-mile trail system extension that provides safe travel for students and exercise for the entire community.

The Play Like Robert Foundation is an example of something good coming from an unspeakable tragedy.

– Bryan Jones, Owner, Hamilton Insurance

One community member who jumped in to help following the tragedy is Bryan Jones, owner of Hamilton Insurance. Robert’s aunt is one of Jones’ employees, so he knows the family well. Along with making an annual donation of $1,000 and Jones’ participation in Robert’s Run, the agency also regularly promotes the foundation through its business contacts. In addition, office manager Mary Wetzsteon has served as a Robert’s Run event volunteer since its inception in 2019, preparing race day bags for participants, gathering awards and performing other duties.

“The Play Like Robert Foundation is an example of something good coming from an unspeakable tragedy,” said Jones. “We’re proud to stand with our neighbors in support of the Leonardi family and their courage to persevere.”

“The foundation is our way of honoring Robert’s memory by helping other children learn and play with joy and purpose, just as my son did.”

 – Philip Leonardi, Director of Communications, Play Like Robert Foundation and father of Robert

The healing power of joy and play

Your vote can help the Play Like Robert Foundation complete a pedestrian and bicycle commuter path in Hamilton. The PLRF has already committed more than $50,000 to the preliminary engineering and design phase, and a Make More Happen award can help bring the trail expansion closer to completion.

 

Help Hamilton Insurance win $10,000 for the Play Like Robert Foundation by clicking the vote button. Get them an extra vote by cheering them on in the comments below by June 30, 2024.

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Abby Roosendaal
7 days ago

What an amazing cause!

Kelsey Rocheleau
8 days ago

This is awesome!

Teri Iverson
8 days ago

This path is a great way to memorialize Robert!

Kerry Hanson
10 days ago

Let’s go!!!

Denise Burrows
10 days ago

Thanks for helping to make a difference!

Tika Hawkins
10 days ago

This is so amazing! A beautiful way to help others in memory of Robert!

Tara Fechser
11 days ago

Love the great things you are doing in honor of Robert.

Sunny
12 days ago

I absolutely love how our community comes together to better the valley, and to make it safer for others!

Megan.gipe@gmail.com
12 days ago

Love you forever bob

Nolan Gipe
12 days ago

Love you bob!!!!! Let’s goooo!!!!

Ashley Gipe
12 days ago

Love you forever Robert!!!

Karen Gipe
12 days ago

Get it done. Love you Robert!

Michelle Post
12 days ago

Let’s do this Bitterroot Valley!!

Bryan Dufresne
12 days ago

We love you, Robert.

Mary Wetzsteon
12 days ago

Let’s get this done! Please vote. This is a great cause to support. Go PLRF!!!

Melanie
12 days ago

This is so amazing! Thank you Hamilton Insurance!

Karen Gipe
13 days ago

Let’s do this!

Gretchen Svee
13 days ago

A great cause to support!

Paula Russell
13 days ago

Truly amazing work! Thank you for all you do within your community, Hamilton Insurance!

Chelsea Ramey
13 days ago

I Love this! What a great way to honor this young boy and his family! Hamilton is such a great community! I lived there for a short time in my early 20’s and everyone was wonderful and welcoming!

Kerry Hanson
13 days ago

This is the perfect way to honor sweet Robert!

Megan
13 days ago

Amazing work and so happy this could all be done surrounding everyone’s love for Robert!

Robin Pruitt
13 days ago

Grateful for the work PLRF is doing in our community!

Kylee
13 days ago

Such an amazing community

Jordynn
13 days ago

Incredible cause!

Lynne Claassen
13 days ago

What a wonderful cause! The support of PLRF has been amazing!

Naomi J. Cheeney
13 days ago

Great support for a great project!

Alyce A Leonardi
13 days ago

Appreciate all the kindness and support for this project.

Mary Wetzsteon
14 days ago

Let’s make more happen for our community

Cheryl Whitney
14 days ago

Thank you for supporting Play Like Robert Foundation!

Joy
14 days ago

Hamilton Insurance is the best!

Phyllis
14 days ago

An important issue that needs attention and support.

Olivia
14 days ago

what an amazing organization! sending love and votes from Portland, OR

Doug martin
14 days ago

Thank you Hamilton Insurance!

Mabel
14 days ago

Thank you for supporting PLRF!!

Dory Griffith
14 days ago

What an amazing cause supported by a great community, proud to be a part of it! 🙂

Carol Mouche
14 days ago

Such a worthwhile cause that has impacted people across the nation. Thank you Hamilton Insurance.

Melanie Jones
14 days ago

Thank you to Hamilton Insurance for your continued support of the Play Like Robert Foundation.

Dan Tracey
14 days ago

Let’s finish that trail! Go PLRF!

Lea Ann Hairston
14 days ago

Thank you, Bryan, and the team at Hamilton Insurance, for supporting the Play Like Robert Foundation! Your values and ethics truly shine bright!!

Ian
14 days ago

Can’t wait to participate this summer!

Chris Greig
14 days ago

Great cause… Thanks for making a difference.

Nancy Mouche'
14 days ago

Thanks to the loving and giving community that supports Play Like Robert Foundation. What a wonderful tribute to Robert and a fabulous addition to the trail system!

Kelsey Rocheleau
14 days ago

This is so great! Thank you for supporting such an inspiring Foundation and cause!

Karen Gipe
14 days ago

Thank you Hamilton Insurance! I am so proud of my home town and everyone who has dedicated time, donations, and love to Remember Robert!

Jan Lusby
14 days ago

Fantastic foundation with a wonderful purpose!

Kara Ginn
14 days ago

Thank you for supporting the Play Like Robert Foundation!

Andy Thorp
14 days ago

Congratulations on being selected as a 2024 Make More Happen Winner!!

Thank you to the Play Like Robert Foundation for all that you do for the Bitterroot community. We greatly appreciate Hamilton Insurance for shining a bright spotlight on this important cause.

Mary P Wetzsteon
14 days ago

We love the support everyone has given the Paly Like Robert Foundation

Joe Condino
14 days ago

What an inspiring Foundation! Well done, Hamilton Insurance.

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