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Leonard gets final wish to watch son at football nationals

12/10/2018, 7:45am EST
By Jaclyn Shambaugh

By Jaclyn Shambaugh 
Staff writer 

Posted Dec 10, 2018 at 7:05 PMUpdated Dec 10, 2018 at 7:05 PM

 Tony Leonard’s hospice provider granted his wish to see his son’s 10U team compete in Orlando.

When everything in Tony Leonard’s life felt upside down, sports was a constant.

Throughout his years-long battle with stomach cancer, a fight dating back to his diagnosis in January 2012, Tony has done all he could for as long as he could to keep coaching and cheering on his favorite athletes — his five sons.

With Tony, who is 46, nearing the end of his journey — he entered hospice care in late November — his final wish was for one more trip to the sidelines.

He traveled to Orlando, Florida, over the weekend to cheer on his son, Aydin, and his 10U football team, the Absolute Broncos, as they competed in the AAU Tackle Football National Championship.

“He’s getting weaker and weaker, but when he found out hospice was going to fly him to Florida so we didn’t have to make the eight-hour drive, he started crying,” Tony’s wife, Christy, said. “I looked at him and asked him if he was going to be able to make it. He said, ‘Oh, I’ll be there.’”

After his most recent hospital stay, Tony made it to the Broncos’ AAU state semifinal, watching the team win six days before he entered hospice care.

At Aydin’s request, Tony also made the state final, watching from the stadium press box.

“Oxygen and all, Tony was at his game, sitting in the press box,” Christy said. “Aydin played his best game ever. Aydin didn’t care about pictures or trophies. He ran up to Tony to celebrate with him.”

While Tony made those trips through sheer determination, he’d need a little help to make AAU Nationals.

His hospice care provider, 3HC, answered the call, providing airfare and covering $500 worth of expenses for the family to make the trip to Orlando.

With that wish granted and a major effort by Tony, the family made the trip to the championship, arriving Dec. 7 in time to catch two of the Broncos’ games.

“Tony’s missed out on so much of the boys’ academics and athletics just in the last few years because of him being sick,” Christy said. “When the state championship kickoff happened, we started crying because I thought that would be the last game he’d ever see.”

Much of Tony’s legacy will center on sports, and all of it will involve his children, Anthoney, 26, Alec, 21, Austin, 18, Aydin, 10, and Ashton, 8.

In recent days, Tony received the Cape Fear football jerseys of two of his sons, Alec and Austin, from high school principal Lee Spruill.

“Tony’s held on for the boys,” Christy said. “He lost his mom and dad both this year. He’s like the last man standing. It’s important for him to see as many milestones as possible.”

Community sports writer Jaclyn Shambaugh can be reached at jshambaugh@fayobserver.com or 910-609-0651.

To see article as posted in the Fayetteville Observer:  https://www.fayobserver.com/sports/20181210/jaclyn-shambaugh-leonard-gets-final-wish-to-watch-son-at-football-nationals

 

Tag(s): NCAAU  AAU TACKLE FOOTBALL