Half a Century of Service to Children
Leanne and Mel Breed among 2018 Honorees at Children's Legacy Luncheon
For Leann and Mel Breed, life’s always been about looking out for our children. “They’re our future and we have to take care of them, and we have to inspire them,” Leann says.
For decades, they have done just that. Leann served as a teacher’s aide for special education classes and as a foster mom for troubled teens, and then later as a school secretary, providing her new opportunities to support both students and faculty. Mel graduated as a school psychologist, and 45 years ago he founded Kaleidoscope Inc., a pioneering child welfare agency established to provide therapeutic foster home and intensive family-based services for hundreds of troubled and neglected youth and families in Illinois.
When they bought Brotoloc and moved from Illinois to Eau Claire in the spring of 1993, Leann enrolled at UW-Stout, where she earned her early childhood education teaching license. She then served eight years as a second-grade teacher at Cleghorn and Putnam Heights elementary schools, both experiences that furthered her mission of advocating for children.
When asked if any defining moments stand out from her time in the classroom, Leann notes that there are plenty of moments to choose from, most of them involving children who were in some way challenged. These are the children Leann advocated for most fiercely, improving their lives in the process.
Leann and Mel have always been a team advocating for vulnerable children and community-based services. While living in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Mel was a statewide advocate for deinstitutionalization among his colleagues. Leann served as President of the McLean County League of Women Voters and served on League’s statewide Child Welfare Study Committee, a committee whose work ultimately led to the passage of the Family Preservation Act in 1986 requiring the welfare system offer intensive family-based services to troubled families. Here in the Chippewa Valley, Leann has served as a board member for both the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire and the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley – organizations that do much to empower children. Mel has served on the Confluence Council and still participates in their Education and Outreach Committee, hoping to be a catalyst for a School for the Arts.
Additionally, Leann and Mel have given generously to various organizations that support their mission, including the Children’s Museum, which they believe provides students the freedom to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom beyond the classroom.
“I believe in the power of play,” Leann explains, “and that’s identified every time you go to the museum.”
Leann and Mel first met while attending Illinois State University, where they soon discovered their shared passion for helping vulnerable children and families and the value of early childhood education. This August, they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary, as well as 50 years of continuing their fight to ensure that every child can receive a high-quality education. Half of this time has been spent right here in Eau Claire, providing them a clear perspective on our city over time.
“We’ve seen a lot of change. Very positive change,” Leann says. “And we’d like those positive changes to continue.”
Thanks to Leann and Mel’s continued efforts, that’s a guarantee.
CHILDREN’S LEGACY LUNCHEON
Each year, the Children’s Legacy Luncheon recognizes indi- viduals who have made positive and long-lasting contributions to the lives of children in the Chippewa Valley through their innovative work, leadership, volunteerism, or philanthropy. The luncheon also serves as a fundraiser for the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire.
Honorees at the 2018 luncheon, which was held May 31, were LeAnn and Mel Breed, Dani Claesges, Jason Hausler, Julie Roeske, and Cathy and John Finney (the last of whom, John Finney, was honored posthumously). In this and upcoming issues of Chippewa Valley Family, we will be sharing pro les of these winners described their work to improve the lives of children in the Chippewa Valley.