Local News

Sanford community welcomes burn survivor home for holidays

Posted December 24, 2009 2:22 p.m. EST
Updated December 24, 2009 11:13 p.m. EST

— Eleven months after the fiery wreck that left him with burns on 80 percent of his body, Robert Leffer is headed home for Christmas.

Friends, local businesses and the fire departments across Lee County banded together Thursday to make the homecoming special for the entire Leffer family.

Leffer, 49, was driving along Interstate 40 in Raleigh Jan. 26, when, authorities say, an SUV cut across multiple lanes of traffic spurring a chain reaction of collisions. Leffer's truck landed in the woods and burst into flames.

Since then, he has had five surgeries and nine-month stay at the Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill followed by daily physical and occupational therapy.

Leffer's wife, Amalia, and 2-year-old son Robert, have been spending most of their time in Chapel Hill to be near him as he recovers.

All three were greeted in Sanford Thursday afternoon by a parade of fire trucks lining the way to their home at 1714 Riddle Road.

When they walk in the door, they'll see the Christmas tree and gifts provided by volunteers and donations from the fire department, church groups and neighbors. A local furniture store pitched in to refurnish the Leffers' house, including a new, "big boy" bed for Robert, who has been sleeping in a crib.

"It means a lot. So much support, so many caring people," Robert Leffer said.

Dave Nance, chief of the Northwest Pocket Volunteer Fire Department, said the entire community came together to make sure the Leffers have a Christmas they will never forget.

"I just want to say thank you to everyone, to everyone, even people we don't know. They keep blessing us! Praise to the Lord," Amalia Leffer said.

"I wasn't supposed to be alive, but I made it," Robert Leffer said. "I'm with my family. I'm here to see my little boy grow up!"

Leffer will spend at least two days at home with his family before returning to Chapel Hill for the final round of surgery and physical therapy he needs to live at home permanently, burn center officials said.