For more than a decade, generations of CU Boulder students, faculty and staff made acquaintance with one of the best friends they could ever have. And through the support of people around the country, her legacy will live on for years to come.
Teri Leiker, a longtime affiliate of the university’s chapter of the national Best Buddies program and superfan of the Golden Buffaloes Marching Band, died on March 22, 2021 during the shooting at King Soopers on Table Mesa. She was remembered during a service April 9 at the CU Events Center.
Her friends and family spoke at the memorial about Leiker’s confidence and charisma, which shone brightly in her decades-long career at King Soopers, as well as in the rest of her life.
Head to toe CU
The night before every CU Football home game, the Golden Buffalo Marching Band lines up in front of the Boulder County Courthouse for the Pearl Street Stampede. It’s a 20-year tradition engineered to hype up Buffs fans, and few were ever as hyped up as Leiker.
“The last few weeks I’ve been thinking back to all of our interactions,” said Matthew Dockendorf, Golden Buffaloes Marching Band director. “She was always there before the marching band got there.”
Without missing a beat upon their arrival, Leiker would unfailingly make a bee-line for Dockendorf or band members, wanting to talk about the band or the next day’s matchup.
“She was just head to toe CU, cheering and singing the fight song,” Dockendorf said. The CU Boulder fight song was so dear to Leiker that it was printed in the booklet at her memorial.
Despite not having a Stampede since 2019, Dockendorf said band members, faculty members and others quickly felt a pull to do something to honor Leiker’s spirit.
“We didn’t know what that was yet, whether that’s a moment of silence or an award at the end of year banquet,” he said.
Then two donors, Marty Coffin Evans and Robert Trembly, stepped in, offering a combined $10,000 to start the Teri Leiker Memorial Marching Band Scholarship. Dockendorf says their goal is to raise $25,000, enabling the scholarship to become an endowment, which would live on in perpetuity.
“We would award an annual scholarship to a student who represents school spirit, generosity, and kindness.” Dockendorf said, all qualities that Leiker embodied.
Dockendorf said the band also plans to hold a moment of silence for Leiker at the next Pearl Street Stampede, which he hopes could be this fall.
“She was a positive influence on so many people. It was such a joy to see her and to see her smile,” he said. “We hope that she can still hear us in the future.”
A great buddy
“I’m going to cry as I think about it,” said CU Boulder Best Buddies faculty advisor Oliver Gerland, who attended the memorial. “She touched people’s lives who went to that King Soopers and would get in line specifically to have her bag their groceries just so they could talk to her.”
Best Buddies is a national organization which looks to end isolation of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. When Gerland began working with CU’s chapter three years ago, Leiker, who had been involved for many years, stood out immediately.
“I saw her as a leader, honestly. She helped me get comfortable with the group,” Gerland said.
After the shooting, the national headquarters of Best Buddies raised nearly $60,000 for Leiker’s family. Best Buddies also announced plans to raise another $150,000 to create a satellite office in Boulder bearing her name.
“The fact that they’re naming it after her is important,” said Liz Lajoie, CU Best Buddies president. “It’s so special that that office is going to expand Best Buddies programming in the West and in Colorado, because Teri loved Best Buddies so much.”
Honoring victims, supporting the community
Leiker was one of ten people killed during the March 22 shooting. CU Boulder has established a committee to honor all of the victims and support the community healing process.
CU Boulder Athletics is also selling #BoulderStrong T-shirts, with all profits going to the Colorado Healing Fund.
You can submit other ideas for community support or get involved by visiting the CU Boulder March 22 community support page.