Hospice Austin

Friends of the late Austin icon Leslie Cochran are planning a fundraiser to help the hospice facility that saw the homeless hero through his last days.

Leslie Fest 2012 will be held on June 24, the day that would have been Leslie’s 61st birthday.

Proceeds from the celebration will benefit Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, a nonprofit organization that cares for terminally ill individuals in the community.

Benefit organizer Brently Heilbron, comedian and television actor, said Leslie Fest will be a festival-like benefit in honor of Leslie’s spirit.

The benefit will be an all-day event held at Club 606 with a variety of live entertainment including stand-up comedians and a lineup of musical performances on two stages. Heilbron said special musical guests are still in the works.

Leslie was well known for his eccentricity when walking the streets of downtown Austin in heels and a leopard-print thong. Heilbron said he encourages everyone to dress up for the celebration in true Leslie style.

It was Leslie’s family who requested proceeds from the celebration to benefit Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, Heilbron said.

“Hospice Austin does so much not just for the homeless, but for anyone who can’t pay for medical care,” Heilbron said. “They do hard work right until the end, and we want to help them for Leslie.”

Every year, Hospice Austin provides $2.5 million in health care services for patients at no cost.

They provide specialized care to patients in their homes, hospitals and nursing homes. Hospice Austin’s Christopher House is an inpatient facility where Leslie, who died on March 8, spent his last days.

Melinda Marble, spokeswoman for Christopher House, said they are honored to have been able to take care of Leslie in his last days and appreciate the support from his friends.

“Leslie was such a huge part of the community and gave it its heart and soul,” she said. “Taking care of him lined up so closely with our mission of caring for the community that takes care of us.”

Hospice Austin regularly cares for homeless individuals, Marble said. Some are treated at Christopher House, while others are offered treatment wherever they may be staying, such as in their cars or under bridges, she said.

There are more than 2,300 homeless individuals living on the streets or in shelters on any given night in Austin, according the city of Austin’s website.

During his time in Austin, Leslie quickly rose to local celebrity status. Leslie channeled his popularity into bringing attention to the treatment of others, including the homeless.

Valerie Romness, friend of Leslie and his power of attorney, said Leslie’s family is looking forward to having his memory help the homeless.

“His family and immediate friends feel like Austin is a great city to live in because Leslie lived here,” she said. “It’s because of him that we can be ourselves.”

Romness said the celebration will provide a feeling of assurance to Leslie’s friends who keep his memory as a reminder of what he stood for.

“Leslie opened the door for Austin to feel free and be itself,” Romness said. “He fostered an environment where we are accepted for however we are in all our uniqueness.” 

Printed on Friday, April 20, 2012 as: Fundraiser benefits hospice, honors Austin icon Leslie