For 15 years Leslie was the closing keynote speaker at the annual Melanie Ilene Rieger Conference Against Violence, founded by Melanie’s parents, Sam and Wanda. Melanie was only 19 when murdered by boyfriend while her parents were on vacation (he is still serving his prison sentence).
The annual conference, convened for twenty years, was last held at Central Connecticut University. Cosponsored by a local Survivors of Homicide chapter, it involved many notable returning faculty members such as Marc Klass, David Kaczynski, and Dorthy Moxley. Guest speakers included survivors of 9/11, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and other tragedies, many of which made national headlines and some that did not.
Audience members included mental health counselors, social services and criminal justice professionals, victim advocates, individuals and families victimized by violent acts, clergy, and more. Leslie’s contribution was to speak about “the call that changes your life,” the gradual process of grief and healing, and most of all, to help her audience experience first-hand the healing power of humor.
Leslie speaks to grief groups pro bono when invited, frequently presents workshops for victim advocates, mental health and social services staff, and healthcare professionals.