The following citizen contribution was submitted byLeadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP)Communications Coordinator Melissa Liriano. Learn more about LEAP here.
On Tuesday, Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP), an education-based nonprofit, celebrated its annual “Thankful Dinners” at each of its seven school-based sites.
These special gatherings bring together LEAPers, counselors, and community volunteers in a spirit of gratitude, where they share home-cooked meals and enjoy each other's company. Students arrived at their school-based sites as volunteers began prepping the food.
LEAPers and counselors started the evening with high energy, chanting LEAP cheers and dancing to their favorite songs. In addition to the dance party, LEAPers played games and shared stories with their counselors and friends. Laughter filled the air, creating a sense of unity and shared joy that set the tone for the evening.
After the games, the focus shifted to a moment of reflection and gratitude. Students and counselors shared what they were most thankful for this year. LEAPers expressed their appreciation for their counselors/mentors at LEAP and the love of their families.
Many of them mentioned that they were grateful for their homes, the food that was prepared for them, and the gift of life. Equally touched by the gratitude of their LEAPers, the high school- and college-aged counselors reflected on the privilege of guiding and nurturing these young minds.
Parents who volunteered at the Thankful Dinners also joined in the spirit of gratitude, expressing their heartfelt appreciation to the counselors who ensure the safety and growth of their children. One parent acknowledged LEAP’s positive impact on her family, creating a space where her children can thrive and make friends without bullying concerns.
Afterward, children lined up to be served delicious Thanksgiving meals and sweet treats, including turkey served with rice, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cupcakes. These meals were provided by the LEAP staff, who cooked 27 turkeys at the Dixwell Community “Q” House to serve over 600 children who are part of LEAP’s programs.
Throughout the meals, conversations flowed freely, filled with laughter, shared experiences, and moments of genuine connection. As the evening ended, site coordinators and assistant site coordinators gave closing speeches. The air was filled with warmth and gratitude as LEAPers and counselors departed for home.
The Thankful Dinners are more than just a meal; they embody the values LEAP holds dear – kindness, compassion, and a deep sense of community. These dinners serve as a testament to the strong bonds that form within the LEAP community, and LEAP is grateful for their staff and community volunteers who helped make the evening extra special for their LEAPers.