Athlete, advocate, and altruist. Leanne is the dictionary definition of a multi-hyphenate.
Just this year alone, Leanne has won a gold medal in cycling in the Special Olympics, raised over £4,500 for charity by climbing Mount Snowdon, and worked with the Surrey County Council in a project which tackle rising obesity rates amongst people with learning disabilities and autism. These are just some of the highlights – we would run out of space if we listed all her achievements! Even with all her successes, Leanne makes clear that she is only getting started.
“I can do this. I know it will be difficult the first few times, but I will get through this.”
Despite her recent successes with cycling, Leanne experienced initial struggles when she first picked up the sport in her youth. She initially started with mountain bikes but found them hard to manage as she had to use special cleats. Not willing to throw in the towel, Leanne later found her niche in road racing which is the event in which she won both a gold and bronze medal during the Special Olympics in Bradford this year.
Witnessing her agility on a bike, you would be hard pressed to imagine that Leanne ever struggled with cycling. Yet, she professes she faced many challenges with getting used to the pedals and even fell off a few times. As someone with learning disabilities and anxiety, her determination to press on with a sport that she could have so easily given up is just one of the many reasons why Leanne is a rightful Leaders List winner.
“Some people don’t understand autism, sometimes they don’t realise they need help when they struggle. Some people just walk past and leave them to struggle.”
Leanne cites her experiences with her own learning disability and mental health as big motivators to helping others in her community. Recognising the need to tackle rising obesity rates amongst people with learning disabilities and autism, Leanne joined the Whole Systems Approach to Obesity in Surrey.
This is the first time a project has looked specifically at obesity within people within her circle, and as an athlete who prides herself on eating healthy, she set out to teach her community about nutrition and healthy habits.
This goal to improve the diets of others in the community tied in well with another one of her roles as a Peer Health Champion where she was trained to help other people with learning disabilities to understand more about how to lead healthy lives. Utilising her training in the subject and her ability to empathise with the struggles of those with learning disabilities and autism, Leanne is able to make sure that the people are able to receive help they need and aren’t left to cope on their own.
“I know I can achieve the things that I want to.”
Leanne has been able to successfully juggle her Special Olympic training with her many roles, and still finds the time and energy for charitable pursuits.
Her successes this year is only the beginning and Leanne has no plans of slowing down. Being a 2022 Leaders’ List recipient has only given Leanne additional motivation to keep pushing herself to the next level. After all, as she shares, “no matter your disability, you can still achieve great things if you try hard and push yourself”.
“No matter your disability, you can still achieve great things if you try hard and push yourself.”