Success Stories

PT paddles marathon for patient

From left are Brandon Gerardy, ¿06, Josh LeJarett and Stephen Leppard, ¿00.

Stephen Leppard knew from a young age that he wanted to help people through medicine. 

After shadowing his father, a pharmacist at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, Leppard began to shadow other health care professionals to see which field of medicine interested him the most. It didn’t take Leppard long to realize his passion for physical therapy.

“Physical therapy was the most interesting to me,” said Leppard, a Kalamazoo native. “There is a unique social setting in physical therapy that allows me to develop a relationship with my patients and see them progress over time.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1997, Leppard enrolled in Grand Valley’s physical therapy program. After earning a master’s degree in 2000, Leppard worked in Chicago for two years then moved back to West Michigan to work at Physiotherapy Associates in Kalamazoo. 

For the past seven years, Leppard has been helping a wide variety of outpatient orthopedic patients. One touched his life so much, Leppard and a friend paddled a canoe 120 miles to raise money for him. In the summer of 2008, Leppard and former co-worker Brandon Gerardy, ’05, organized a fundraiser for Josh LeJarett, a 19-year-old patient with cerebral palsy.

Leppard and Gerardy participated in the 61st Annual AuSable River Canoe Marathon to raise money for LeJarett. The marathon is a 120-mile overnight canoe race from Grayling to Oscoda. Leppard and Gerardy successfully completed the marathon in 17 hours and 57 minutes. 

They collected money for each mile they paddled and raised over $1,500 for LeJarett to help pay college expenses.

Recognized for his selfless efforts, Leppard was nominated by the Kalamazoo Rotary for a Rotary International Group Study Exchange (GSE) to Argentina in South America in April 2009. Through this vocational exchange program, Leppard worked with physical therapists in hospitals, private practices, and with the Velez Sarsfield professional futbol (soccer) club in Argentina. 

“It was truly an experience of a lifetime,” Leppard said. “I encourage people, of any profession, to step outside of their comfort zones, challenge themselves, and experience different cultures that will have a meaningful impact on their lives and the lives of others.”

by Heather DeWitt

This story was filed with the tags: Graduate Alumni, Health