Post by Jason Plotkin
I pride myself on being able to work any scene and no one in the room knowing my feelings about what I’m covering.
I’ve spent years at a variety of political events and no one I’ve taken pictures of, does, or should know where my feelings lie about what I believe. I’ve even spent an entire afternoon standing in the middle of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally where they have expressed their racial and religious views, and I did exactly what I was there to do. Document them and that event.
But there is no doubt that I am totally compromised when it comes to Hunter Leisenring. I can’t help it. I love that kid. He’s my pal.
When I first met him almost 10 years ago, he was a 2-year-old boy who was recovering from a life-threatening beating at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. The beating was so severe that his lifelong diagnosis would leave him in diapers and never able to walk on his own. He was wheelchair bound and totally dependent upon his father, mother and brother.
It would have been easy to feel sorry for Hunter. When you first meet him, he either crawls over or is wheeled up to you.
That’s where things changed.
I met Hunter. I spent time with him. With a positive outlook that is obvious by the constant smile on his face, he has never, over the years, failed to make me smile or laugh. I’ve introduced him to my daughter, who is around the same age, and it was obvious he was flirting with her. (Forget it kid. I don’t care how much I like you. No boy will ever be good enough for my girl.)
When “Extreme Home Makeover” was rumored to be helping a family from York, there was no hiding my excitement over the possibility that Hunter and his family could get the aid he needs. And when another family, the Keefers, received this honor, as much as I was happy for them, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed it didn’t go to Hunter.
Not a family with a lot of money to begin with and, with Hunter’s need financially weighing on them, they have reached out to the community in a variety of ways. One way was Hunter Fest. An event that both raises awareness to the horror of child abuse and money to help make life a little easier for Hunter.
They, at times, have also reached out to me. Asking me to take family and graduation photos that they could not afford at a traditional studio. The York Daily Record has been kind enough to allow me to use our studio and help the Leisenrings out.
Yesterday was one of those days. I had not seen Hunter in almost a year and when they came out of the van, he was walking on his own with a cane. With a huge smile on his face and calling out my name, he slowly made his way to me. According to his mother, Yvette, he had a recent operation of a tendon transfer in his left foot and moved the tendon from the left side of foot to the right side. They also released the hamstring in the right leg.
When I saw him, I thought I was going to cry. It was such a cool moment and we had such a wonderful time taking photos of him. It was filled with laughs and plenty of high-fives.
Below, I’ve posted two photos of Hunter. The one of the left is the one we ran on the front page nearly 10-years-ago. Since the beating, a 10 minute haircut takes nearly an hour. Doctors say Hunter’s brain is receiving abnormal signals, a result of a beating by his mother’s ex-boyfriend, he can’t stand to have his head touched. He needs to be held in place until the task is done.
The one on the right is Hunter yesterday.
A day I won’t forget for a long time.
Underneath the photo is a video I did in 2009 updating Hunter. Hear his voice and see that smile.
It’s hard not to smile once you meet him.
This year’s Hunter Fest is august 18th Saturday, and will have an accompanying yard sale on June 16th, from 9 to 1 at the vpa behind royers flowers..all of this year’s proceeds will be used to donate to local agencies that belp with child abuse awareness and shaken baby syndrome awareness.
For more information you go to the Hunter Fest page on Facebook.