Aaron Leeds just wanted his breakfast. Not the attention, not an article in a parent newsletter, not an award. Just an egg sandwich from Pepe's.
As Leeds walked into the North Baltimore restaurant on a December morning on his way to school, a white envelope with blue print enclosing a thick stack of money caught his eye.
Without another thought, the Boys' Latin three-sport senior picked it up, handed it to the cashier and went on with his day. Roland Harvey, an alumnus of Boys' Latin who happened to be eating there saw the exchange and was curious to know who turned in the cash.
The cashier, who didn't know Leeds' name, told Harvey, a 1980 graduate, that Leeds ordered breakfast every day at 7 a.m. When Leeds returned to Pepe's the next morning, he was surprised to find his egg sandwich already paid for and Harvey waiting to meet him.
Harvey was so inspired that he approached Boys' Latin officials, recounted the story and donated $3,000 in Leeds' name for tuition assistance.
For Leeds' act, he will be presented with the sixth annual Hayley Milbourn Integrity Award, which honors a local high school athlete who demonstrates extraordinary character. Leeds will receive his award Wednesday during the boys and girls high school Athlete of the Year banquet at The Baltimore Sun.
“It's pretty amazing because I was not expecting anything like this,” said Leeds, who played varsity soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse for the Lakers. “It's nice to see doing the right thing pays off.”
Leeds said he didn't tell his friends or his family about what he did at Pepe's, where a customer later that day returned to claim the money from the cashier. Teachers and coaches called his parents, Mark and Bernadette Leeds, to congratulate them on their son's award, and Boys' Latin put a section in the weekly parent bulletin and made an announcement at school commending Leeds for his act of integrity.
“The award he is winning is a great reflection of his overall character,” said Jim Sandusky, Leeds' hockey coach. “Nobody's shocked he would do something like that. He's the kind of guy that you're proud that you coached him.”
Added Bernadette Leeds: Harvey "said this has made a huge impact on his life. Then he calls me at work and leaves me a message saying, ‘I have something to tell you about your son.' He told me the story, and it brought me to tears.”
Leeds' actions that morning also reflect his mentality in the classroom and on the field. Ritchie Schell, Leeds' economics teacher, who nominated him for the award, said Leeds is just the type of youth you would expect to do the right thing off the field.
And on the field, all of Leeds' coaches say, he's very coachable and ready to follow instruction. He even willingly switched positions in soccer for the benefit of the team.
The varsity soccer squad had a surplus of talented forwards and a depleted backfield, so coach Don Rickels asked Leeds to switch from attack to defense. Leeds started and completed every game as a defender to help Boys' Latin win the 2012 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship.
“Aaron is athletic, but he's also unselfish,” Mark Leeds said. “The adjustment had a lot to do with the success of [the team]. He got an MVP award from soccer after switching positions. ... It was a very successful experience.”
Off the field, he was a part of the Boys' Latin Jewish Awareness club, served his congregation through Sunday school and participated in community service through the Baltimore chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., working with Habitat for Humanity and Moveable Feasts to serve the Baltimore community.
Leeds is heading to Salisbury in the fall to play lacrosse and study health and sport sciences in hopes of becoming an athletic trainer — a profession in which he will still be able to help people, as he did at Pepe's that December morning.