Making a Difference: "Grandpa Fred" helps local kindergartners

Published: Nov. 16, 2017 at 2:10 PM CST
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When you watch Madison retiree Fred Leidel pedal his bicycle toward the local elementary school on a frigid Wisconsin day, it doesn't surprise you to learn that his favorite book as a child was "The Little Engine That Could"--the one with the line, "I know I can, I know I can."

Twice a week, Fred battles all types of weather on that bike so he can pedal over to Schenk Elementary School to read to kindergartners in Lindsay Snyder's classroom. She said, "It really shows true dedication for him to ride his bike, no matter if it's rain, sleet, snow, whatever it is.

Unless it's a snow emergency, he makes it on his bike twice a week".

The kindergartners in Ms. Synder's class simply know him as "Grandpa Fred". Like any good Grandpa, he knows little kids love to have books read to them.

As Grandpa Fred puts it, "I think it's part of growing up. They think, some day I'll be able to do this" (read).

Grandpa Fred reads to each child individually at a desk in the hallway outside of Ms. Snyder's classroom. When he read to one little boy, the boy's legs were swinging beneath the desk with joy, as he listened to every word.

Snyder said, "The kids just love hearing from him. With Grandpa Fred, they're reading for fun, and they really enjoy just sitting back and hearing a story. They don't all have the opportunity for that at home, so it's a great opportunity for them to have it here. We just really appreciate him."

Grandpa Fred said, with a big smile, "The kids are so nice. It's very important--just part of my life." When I asked him if it beats sitting at home and watching The Price is Right, he laughed and said, "Yes! It sure does. You have to stay active...and (volunteering) is one good way of staying active."

The kids keep Grandpa Fred young at heart...and it's been a long time since he was a youngster himself. He will be 101-years-old on December 3rd! As Ms. Synder put it, "I would not be able to deal with kindergartners at 100. He has just amazing dedication. He just really enjoys being here."

The joy this century-old senior gets reading to kids, in the later chapters of his own life, will keep him coming back as long as he is able. Born when steam engines still rode the rails, Grandpa Fred has plenty of steam left himself...just like that Little Engine that could,

A couple of other interesting notes about Fred: He went skydiving at age 94...and between the age of 50 and 80, he ran 33,000 miles! Maybe that's his secret for staying so young?

(Fred volunteers through RSVP of Dane County. If you'd like to find out more about the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), click on the link to the right on your desktop, below on your mobile device).