URBANA – Leal Elementary School physical education teacher Jim McCune thought he was just tending Janet LeRoy’s third grade class for a few minutes on Friday morning as he sat on the stage in front of the gym.
Instead, he was in for a surprise.
LeRoy walked into the gym with University of Illinois Golf Course Director Mike Wallner and golf pro Jeff Butts, who delivered a set of clubs to the Navy veteran.
âIt might be one of the best Fridays I’ve ever had,â said McCune.
Since leaving the military 30 years ago, McCune has had to deal with complications from an injury he sustained while on duty for a few months, when a forklift failed him. cut the leg. His knees and hips now make it difficult to engage in physical activity without fear of falling.
For a former high school basketball star who enjoyed hiking and other physical activities, this was hard to swallow.
âGoing over from someone who has never sat in place is very frustrating and depressing not being able to move,â he said.
Recently he took up golf, a sport he is capable of playing, and launched an online appeal for a set of used clubs. During her 36 years teaching at Leal, LeRoy said she enjoyed helping her colleagues. So she put out a call on the NextDoor app, where Wallner replied that he thought he could get a set.
âI know it’s very difficult for him to move around,â said LeRoy. âI finally saw that there was something he was asking for. I said, ‘Well, let me see if I can help you with that.’ When I made the post I thought someone was going to say ‘I have a dusty set in the garage. You can have them. ‘”
LeRoy also knew that McCune deserved a gift after dedicating much of his life to helping others despite devastating turns in his life.
A year after her leg was nearly cut off, McCune’s one-year-old daughter died. He and his wife had a boy soon after, but then decided to turn to a foster family. For 28 years, the McCunes have fostered children by adopting four of them along the way.
The leg injury also forced a change of focus towards helping others. Instead of working in manual labor, McCune decided to become the only member of his family to go to college. In 2000, he graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
That fall, he accepted a position as a physical education teacher at Robeson Elementary School in Champaign. For the past six years he has taught at Leal and was the Physical Education Coordinator for the Urbana School District.
He is also the coach of the St. Joseph-Ogden bass fishing team, a sport he played after injuring his leg, and runs a program at Leal to teach children how to fish.
âHe gives back to others when he can,â said LeRoy. âI’m so glad the only thing he asked for was something we can do for him. No pressure on his wife and children for Christmas, because I took care of them.