Mum-of-two taking on charity walk in memory of a much-loved Leeds schoolteacher

A mum-of-two will be taking on a charity walk in memory of a much-loved Leeds schoolteacher.

A photo of Lesley Chandler-Clare's late husband Kevin Leaver. Photo provided by Meningitis Now.
A photo of Lesley Chandler-Clare's late husband Kevin Leaver. Photo provided by Meningitis Now.

Lesley Chandler-Clare, from Guiseley, is taking part of the London Winter Walk for charity Menigitis Now in honour of her late husband, Kevin Leaver.

Kevin was teacher at St Mary's Menston School and was described as the “heart” of the school by those who worked there.

He died in January 2000, just as Lesley's eldest daughter Claire had just finished her first term at university and their younger daughter Laura was months away from her GCSEs.

Lesley Chandler-Clare, from Guiseley, will be walking in memory of her late husband Kevin Leaver. Photo provided by Meningitis Now.

Lesley said: "The first year was, to put it bluntly, horrendous.

"The family dynamic was altered forever in the blink of an eye.

"I lost the one person who knew me better than anyone else and the girls lost a father they loved unconditionally and who had guided them so skilfully and lovingly from birth.

"Sleep was almost impossible. If you slept it meant waking up and going through the reality of what had occurred all over again.”

Laura went on to gain excellent GCSE, A-level and degree results and Claire gained her degree.

They both married and Lesley now has two grandsons and an 18-month granddaughter.

Lesley met a man named Jeff and they got married in January 2018 following a romantic proposal while backpacking Greece.

Jeff - and his brother Jon and sister Rachel - will be joining Lesley on the walk.

Also supporting and sponsoring her are many people who knew Kevin when he taught at St Mary's.

Lesley said: "Kevin had taught at the same school all his teaching career and he was by anyone’s standards an exceptional teacher.

“Many of the people supporting and sponsoring us are people who knew him when he taught, now approaching their forties with children of their own.

"He was an incredibly popular teacher, he was described as the real heart of the school.”

Meningitis Now’s Community Fundraising Manager Leah Wynn said Lesley had been a great supporter of the charity for many years.

Leah said: "It’s so lovely that Lesley is taking on this challenge to mark the twentieth anniversary of losing Kevin.

“As one of our Community Ambassadors, Lesley has worked tirelessly raising awareness and funds in Kevin’s memory – like going into schools to talk about meningitis and how to recognise the signs and symptoms.

“Good luck Lesley, Jeff, Jon and Rachel – I hope you enjoy the day and thank you for supporting Meningitis Now."

So far Lesley has raised more than £750 and is hoping to get beyond the £1,000 mark before the walk takes place.

As well as money, Lesley said she wanted to raise awareness about meningitis, in particular that adults can get it too as Kevin was 50-years-old when he died.

The grandmother-of-three said: “I am a walker but this is going to be a bit different as I am used to walking in the dales on soft ground while this will all be on hard ground.

“So I am trying to strengthen myself ready for this. We think it’ll take us about five hours but luckily there will be some stops along the way.

"Eighteen years ago I could not have envisaged how our lives would change after such a devastating event but it is good both to be loved and love again.

“On this journey we have shared our story with whoever will listen. Hopefully others have benefited from knowing that meningitis can affect anyone. I just wish the first doctor who saw Kevin all those years ago had known that.”

The London Winter Walk takes place on Sunday, January 19 and is in two parts so you can chose to do either a half or full marathon.

To sponsor Lesley please visit her Just Giving page.