It is one thing for a worried parent to imagine their child being harmed, and be grateful for their safety, but should that nightmare come to pass, it is horrifyingly real.
That is how Peekskill resident Franquin (“Franki”) Leon felt when he found out that his son Alexis (“Alex”) Leon had been the victim of an assault last Nov. 28. Alex, 18, was stabbed in the stomach while trying to defend his best friend Joaquin Salazar.
Salazar died that night at the Westchester Medical Center, while Alex survived after a four-hour surgery at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Back home for several weeks now, he is on a slow but steady road to recovery.
Alex is surrounded by caring friends, family, and community members, many of whom have contributed to a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $31,000 to support his family, surpassing the original goal of $25,000.
Rebecca Boivin of Montrose organized the GoFundMe campaign with two Croton-on-Hudson residents she calls her “kayaking and running buddies” — Hallie Wolfe and Pat O’Rourke.
“A lot of folks got to know Franki when he worked at Grouchy Gabe’s Grill on Old Post Road in Croton,” says Boivin. “Those were the days when Alex was a little kid coming in to grab his dad after work.”
“When Franki got his own place [Franki’s Grill] across the street, we watched Alex grow up. In middle and high school Alex helped out at his father’s sandwich shop and the whole community got to know him,” Boivin says.
Boivin notes that the GoFundMe donations will go toward helping Alex get his life back.
“We want to make sure that Alex gets the help he is going to need to recover physically, mentally, and spiritually in the future.”
She adds, “We want to help provide financial support while he can’t work, and when he needs physical therapy, as well as other types of therapy to help recover from trauma and grief.”
Franki Leon, who works in his shop from 6 a.m.-4 p.m. every day while also trying to help his son, says, “It’s been a tough time for my business with the pandemic and then this horrible situation with my son. Having all this support from people in Croton, Ossining and Peekskill means a lot to my family.
Leon notes that in addition to helping to pay for the medical bills, the funds raised will go toward Alex’s college tuition, enabling his son to realize his goal of becoming an electrician.
“It’s not just about the money, it’s also about all the messages and phone calls. I will carry this in my heart all my life.”
Leon says his son improves every day. On doctor’s orders, Alex will stay homebound for the next two or three months. It will take one to three years for his stomach to recover totally.
“The second part of the recovery is to mentally recuperate,” says Franki. “It’s tough for him to think of his [late] friend. He is often frustrated and upset about what happened.
Says Alex,“I wake up feeling guilty because I don’t feel like I deserved everything [positive] that has come my way after this situation. I lost a brother, a best friend, and a loved one who had so much talent and a bright future ahead of him. Joaquin was my idol and I miss him dearly.
“The amount of support I’ve received from the community is unbelievable and I could never have imagined it to be so great. I am blessed to be here and given another opportunity at life,” he says.
For more information > gofundme.com/f/Help-us-help-Alex-Leon.
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor.