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Leon Sidari Memorial Fund

$67,278 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 769 people in 7 months
Noel is Leon spelled backwards.  

On Christmas morning, our 4-year-old Leon died suddenly from influenza, in spite of the extraordinary efforts of the doctors and medical professionals to save him.

Leon was a magical person.  Whether you knew him for a lifetime, or mere moments trying to help save his life, Leon touched us all.

Christmas was Leon's favorite day, even being so young.  He loved to give presents more than to receive them, something he learned from his parents, Laura and Tony.  When he visted Santa, he made sure Santa knew that his little brother needed his own truck, and his list was only one present long.

Laura and Tony are in the active military, serving their country.  They strongly believe in giving back and infused that spirit in Leon.

To continue Leon's legacy of love, we are establishing a Memorial Fund in Leon's name.  100% of the funds will be given to help children with medical problems at Christmas time to find the same joy that Leon did.  In the first year, this will be focused on children of military parents, but with your help this will grow in the years to come.

Initially the funds will be safeguarded by Leon's Grandpa Lyman, while a new 501 c 3 is created.  All funds will be transferred to this charity as soon as it is created and approved by the government agencies.

Please donate today to keep the Noel in Leon's name.
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Earlier today we received notification from the IRS that Leon's Gift was granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as a public charity.

We will be sending out updated gift acknowledgement letters to donors, but this only works if we have your current email address.

I expect that we will not be able to get to this until the end of July or early August. If you have made a donation but have not received an acknowledgement letter, and need one for documentation on your taxes, please email me in early September and we will address it then.

Once again, thank you for your generosity, thoughts and prayers.
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It has been a while since I last posted. We have struggled to deal with Leon no longer being physically with us.

25 years ago, the Rotary Club of Albion, NY named their golf tournament in honor of my father, Curtis Lyman. Albion was the Lyman hometown for generations before me, and where Gail and I raised Laura and her sisters. The Sidari family is also from Albion and where Tony grew up. Leon visited Albion many times to be with relatives.

Dad died July 6, 1992 and his funeral was the same day as the 1992 tournament. Curtis was a strong believer in the good of Rotary’s mission around the world, and a long-term member of the Albion Rotary club. He taught us to leave your community a little better than you found it; something that all of us also believe.

When asked if the club should cancel the tournament that year because of the funeral, we said that Dad would have expected them to “play on”.

Each year the tournament proceeds have been donated to support local community missions, such as Hospice, literacy, vocational and health related projects. In the past 25 years tens of thousands of dollars were raised and given back.

Earlier this year, the Albion Rotary Club decided that proceeds from the 25th Anniversary Curtis Lyman Memorial tournament should be donated to Leon’s Gift, to carry on the mission of giving back to the community that now spans more than 4 generations of the Lyman family.

Golf has been an activity that brought those generations together over the years. My father was a far better Rotarian than golfer, but we played together a number of years in leagues. I have shared my love of golf with my children, and one beautiful day last year, my one and only time with Leon. I spoke about that magical day in my eulogy.

We have many friends in the Country Club of Ithaca, some of whom are travelling 2 ½ hours each way in support of this inter-generational project to raise money. Some are not able to make the trip, and have donated directly. A sign in honor of all these CCI contributions will be on the course this next Thursday. I am posting a picture with this update.

Since moving to Ithaca, I have continued my 37 year membership with Rotary International. Grandma Gail joined last year. This past week Ithaca Rotary sponsored a community fireworks celebration, and as part of that sold water. Over 250 bottles of water left over are being donated to Albion Rotary from Ithaca Rotary for the tournament.

These are just some of the examples of the tremendous support and generosity that help celebrate Leon’s life through giving.

Funds raised through the golf tournament are being earmarked to sponsor educational/holiday related events in the Albion area.

We have been working with Cindy Perry, part of the local hospital system (and also a main person on the golf committee) to put together a vaccination/education and small present event for young people this coming November. I am sure that Santa will make an appearance as well.

Albion NY was the original home of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, and my dad was Santa’s lawyer. “Play on.”

Thank you again to everyone who has donated so generously. We are working diligently to put together programs, and will have more updates later this year.

Nathan Lyman
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Tony was the last speaker at Leon's service. A better dad no child ever had. His beautiful words conveyed that to all of us there.
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For those in the room who don’t know me, I am Leon’s dad. I want to thank everyone for their show of overwhelming support in this last week, and for coming out today to let us feel your love for our boy.

Leon was our first child, who we had while we were still in our Intern year of training in 2013. I’ll never forget the day he was born—I had just come back the day prior from the national Internal Medicine conference in San Francisco, and the next day—surprise: Laura was in labor one week early. It was the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, and I remember wheeling Laura up to Labor and Delivery as the news of that terrible event played on the television and with it all I could think was how bizarre it was the juxtaposition of something so tragic while something so meaningful and magical entered into our own lives.

Although through losing Leon we mourn our past experiences, all the time and effort invested in honing him as a person, I have come to realize in the past week that he also bestowed many gifts on us. He is responsible for us being the people before you today.

Leon taught us to never squander the moment—to take that chance on a rare snowy day in San Antonio to go outside and build a snowman together despite being on-call and having multiple presentations to write for the next day. Don’t miss the chance to give that extra hug, that extra kiss, and whisper, “I love you”. He taught us that dinnertime is meant to be together at the table, phoneless, listening to music (sometimes Christmas music even when not in season), enjoying telling the stories of the day. He taught us to enjoy grocery-grabbing, as that became a regular weekly outing for our family during which Leon would snag all of the free samples at HEB to slip to Tristan. He taught us a love for bedtime routines in which we would tell “dreams” (stories) about fantastical characters in ordinary settings, or just play some Minecraft together and build forts to defend from monsters. He taught me to smile even when things were difficult, his optimism and excitement for everything taught me to find joy even in the mundane. If you know me, then you have seen the effects of this little boy on me.

All along the way we worried about the small things—like making sure he could pronounce “G” vs “Dee”, and working on the annunciation of his Ls. We worried about the little chip he somehow got in his front tooth and wondered how many years it would perpetuate in his school pictures. All these little things became meaningless after the events this Christmas, when Leon ultimately lost a rapidly progressive battle with the flu. But we will always have the little things that he taught us, and more importantly, that he made us into the parents and people we are today.

Leon, your love of life and optimism are what I will always remember and miss the most about you. Me and mama will never forget the wonderful gifts you gave us, and your memory will live on in our hearts forever. As we would end every day together, “goodnight, Bug”.
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It was one month ago that Leon left us.

During that time we have come to learn more and more the importance of the need to share the message of vaccination. Thank you messages shared by PMG, members of Rotary, friends and national news reports have told us this.

I want to share with you Laura's message from Leon's service. I know it will move you, as it did everyone in attendance:

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On Apr 15 2013, Leon Robert Sidari came barreling into this world. His delivery was rushed. Tony and I were terrified. However, the moment he was placed in my arms, I had never seen anything more beautiful. He was perfect. He had steel-colored eyes, already halfway to their almond brown. He had dirty blond hair, the shade of mine. And he had his father’s gigantic feet.

Leon’s birthday was also the day of the Boston marathon bombing. I remember watching the TV in labor and delivery, thinking how different of a day it was for my family compared to those in that crisis. How could it be possible that one of the best days of my life could be the worst day of theirs? I recall thinking that beauty can even come on days of unbearable darkness.

Leon was an incredible little man. As parents, it is a normal thing to gush about our babies. Every scribble on a piece of paper becomes a precious work of art. Each word, step, jump, kiss is perceived as the first to grace this earth. But truly, Leon was the person I never knew I needed in my life. Even at 4 years old, he was kind. He gave fruit gummy snacks to his friends before himself. He taught his brother Tristan how to softly care for baby Cameron and was first in line to grab diapers or share his favorite toys with his little brothers. He was patient beyond his years, which taught me to slow down and live in the moment when we were together. He had exactly 8 stuffed cats, which he gave different names and lined up along his bedside with his other stuffed animal friends. Each day before school he had to tuck in his favorite cat, Boo, with his other buddies Blue-Eyes, Stripes, and Patches. Leon was a bursting ball of positivity. He got excited for broccoli salad, trips to the grocery, and the weekend. When he liked something, he took the time to let you know it. He had my terrible hand-eye coordination but could run like the wind. My husband and I imagined him as an architect someday, based on his love of designing and building intricate block towers. However, Leon was insistent that he would grow up to be a doctor like Tony and I. He explained that he wanted to help people feel better. More than anything, he knew how to love. He was adamant that “there are no bad guys in this world.” He knew how to spontaneously tell those around him that he cared. Each day there were more I love you’s than I can count. Not only did Leon ask for Good Night kisses, but also a parade of good morning kisses that stretched far into the afternoon. My favorite moments are when he would grab both sides of my face with his chubby little hands and say, “mama, I love you.” Leon turned me from a woman into a mother. He turned Tony and I from a couple into family. He taught me that family dinners are the most important time of the day, there is always time for another hug, and extra work will be there in the morning but puzzles and nighttime stories cannot wait.

On Christmas Day, Leon died from complications of the flu. My husband and I brought him to the hospital when he started to have trouble breathing. He had a team of strong physicians who worked hard to save him. However, he rapidly declined and died in just 18 hours. In a blink, he was gone.

As medical professionals, it is difficult to process when the demarcation between science and faith begins to blur. As a physician, it can be easy to become accustomed to the great strength that modern medicine provides. As a mother, you rest confidence in trusting your babies will be ok and will be strong enough to pull through. However, when you see even the greatest of interventions fail on the person most precious to you, you are left with questions that science cannot fully answer. In the midst of the darkest day of my life, there were some circumstances that I cannot fully explain. Leon fell sick during a time when friends and family were visiting, something unusual for my military family. When he passed, he was surrounded by people who loved him most. He died on Christmas, his favorite holiday of the year. Like the day of his birth, the day of Leon’s death juxtaposes a day of life and light with a day of tragedy. It forces my family each year to make a difficult decision: whether to make Christmas a day of celebration or a funeral. Medical training has at times rocked my belief in God and made me question my faith. But, in this day of tremendous darkness, there were these shining moments of light. My family and I have found strength in reconnecting with faith and God during this time.

It is hard to know where exactly to go moving forward. As a mother, when your 4 year old dies, not only does your baby die but also your hopes and dreams for him. As a part of Leon’s legacy, my family and I have put together a memorial fund in his honor: providing help to children with medical problems at Christmas. It is a cause that Leon would have wanted to help with. And, speaking as a mother in her greatest moment of helplessness, I want to take a moment to try to do my part to potentially prevent other deaths like Leon’s. I am a good mother. I comfort my babies when they are scared, care diligently for their needs, take them to their scheduled doctor appointment, hug them close, and make them wear their seatbelts. But, I put off getting the flu shot for Leon. Life got busy, work got busy, and I put off scheduling it for after Christmas. It is unclear if the flu shot would have saved his life. Only God can know that. However, research shows that 80-90% of children who die of the flu did not have the shot. If you get the flu, the shot can help to prevent serious complications of influenza like Leon experienced. Even as a physician, it surprised me to discover that many of the 30-100 kids who die every year are healthy and strong like Leon. The shot can help reduce the spread of influenza to others. If you have not received the shot already, as a mother whose child died from the flu, I urge you to consider getting one.

I want to thank all of you for coming today. My family and I are overwhelmed by your tremendous support. Today truly shows that a person’s life is not simply measured by the number of years lived, but also by the quality and quantity of connections made.

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The evidence is clear that with this year's flu, getting vaccinated may save your life. Please help us share this important message.

Thank you all for your love and support.

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$67,278 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 769 people in 7 months
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Albion Rotary Curtis Lyman Memorial Golf Tournament
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