LeAnne Hardy: Community Strong Person of the Year 2016

LeAnne Hardy is the daughter of Robert & “Woodie” Hardy of the Brosville community and the proud mother of James Hunt III and “Aunt-Mom” to Jacob Hardy.  She received her MBA from Averett University and currently works as a manufacturing accountant.  Her passion for suicide awareness and prevention stems from losing her brother, “Slick” to suicide in 2013.  After hearing of the death of her brother, God placed on her heart the desire to do something in her brother’s memory to prevent future loss of life to suicide.  She partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in 2015 to host the First Annual Danville-Pittsylvania County Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention.  Since then, she has surrounded herself with those who share the same passion and together, they have become the “VOICE” of suicide in the Danville/Pittsylvania County area.

Why is community involvement so important to you?

I became the local Suicide Prevention Advocate after losing my brother to suicide in 2013 and wanting to prevent another sister from feeling the pain of losing a sibling to suicide.  Since then, it has become so much more!  Bringing change to our community and helping others fulfill their potential feels AMAZING and it also helps bring hope to those in need.  There is nothing that can replace the feeling of doing good work…it’s a WIN-WIN situation!

What inspires you to volunteer?

I believe whatever we set our minds to, is possible.  And, I believe that if we work hard enough, we can do anything.  It is this philosophy that has carried Danville-Pittsylvania County Out of the Darkness through the past two years.  Upon starting this event in the Danville area, I had no idea what type of support it would receive.  Since then, I have met so many wonderful people with lived experience, and I have watched as they started along their own personal healing journey and have taken the steps necessary to move forward.  To see their hearts so full of love to give, their desire to do something good, and their determination to MAKE IT HAPPEN is what inspires me the most.

How do you balance life, work, and community involvement?

I stay balanced by those I surround myself with.  My son, James Hunt, keeps me grounded.  He keeps me on track, and when I am feeling down, he knows how to lift me up.  My nephew-son, Jacob Hardy, is the reason for my passion.  His dad was my brother who we lost to suicide and every time that I think about quitting, I just think of Jacob.  His kind, loving spirit, his strength, his wisdom, his chocolate-drop eyes (just like his dad) and his infectious smile, ALWAYS fill my heart with pride and keeps me motivated.  With these two young men by my side, I CAN DO ANYTHING!  Everything that I am and all that I do would be nothing without the support of my family, friends and the dedicated Out of the Darkness volunteers.  Their love and support is what fuels my passion and they always have my back.  Where I am weak, they are strong and throughout it all, they have never let me down. Without them by my side along this journey, I would surely fail.

Who are your real-life heroes and why?

My real-life heroes are those people who have gone through a tragedy and emerged on the other side stronger and better.  These people are never the same as they were before their trauma, but they get up every day and keep on fighting to survive.  And trust me, it’s a struggle sometimes just to get out of bed, but they never give up.

What is it about Danville that makes it special to you?

I grew up in Danville and have always been firmly rooted here. When I brought the Out of the Darkness Walk to our area, I had my heart set on basing it in Danville/Pittsylvania County area, even though our area under the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also covers Martinsville, Henry County, South Boston, and Halifax County.  Danville is home

What are you most looking forward to in 2017?

As our special project for 2016, we have been focusing on Veteran Suicide Awareness, and how we can help support this at-risk population.  Throughout my research, I found two subjects that kept reoccurring in conversation; therapy dogs and caregiver support.  Seeing the need for resources in these areas, Danville-Pittsylvania County Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention introduced “Stars, Stripes & Paws,” a monthly program that brings together local veterans and Hearts of Gold Therapy Dogs, and “I LOVE A VET” Caregivers Group, which is a monthly program that for loved ones and caregivers of local veterans to work together to learn how to better care for our veterans.  Both programs are offered free of charge to veterans and their loved ones and offer a safe environment for those in attendance to spend time with their peers, learn from one another, and grow together.  I anticipate further growth in both these programs that will eventually help place companion animals in the homes of our local veterans and offer weekly meetings for veterans and their loved ones to further support these at-risk groups.

Do you have a favorite quote, and if so what is it?

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, was known to say, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” This quote has become my life motto and is the guiding factor in all that I do.

What do you like to do outside of work and volunteerism?

I love to surround myself with those I love the most and cook, craft, laugh and just be together. Spending time with those who strengthen me and lift me up is what keeps my mind in a positive light and helps anchor my foundation on the good works to be done.  I also love to lose myself on a mountain bike or hiking trail or on a back road with the music up loud.

What is your idea of happiness?

Being able to feel good about what you do, that’s happiness.  When you see others doing good works and leaving a positive impact in our community and wanting to do more, that’s true happiness!

What are your favorite things to do in Danville?

Angler’s Park is one of my favorite places to go in Danville.  It has something for everyone and every time I visit there, I find another treasure I hadn’t seen before.  The weight of the world falls off my shoulders just entering the park.