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Giving Is Second Nature to New Milford Alum

April 20, 2017

By Phillip DeVencentis,

Adam Leitman Bailey, a successful attorney, is the New Milford Education Foundation’s “Humanitarian of the Year”

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NEW MILFORD — Anyone else would have been sidelined for good.

In 1987, Adam Leitman Bailey was a passenger in a car that crashed in Bergenfield. He broke both arms and his right hand and was in a coma for a few days.

But that didn’t slow him down. Once out of the hospital, Bailey — a runner on the New Milford High School cross-country team — quickly returned to training, despite having casts on both arms.

Bailey ran a record season that year, achieving all-county honors, and was presented with an Award of Courage from his coaches and teammates just before graduating in 1988.

“That incident really tells you a lot about Adam,” his former coach, Raymond “Hap” Harrison, said from his Weare, N.H., home. “It didn’t set him back — it made him tougher.”

Harrison added, “His determination on the track is a character trait that carried over throughout his life.”

On Thursday, Harrison, who handed the courage award to Bailey almost 30 years ago, will introduce him to a ballroom of more than 250 people at Seasons Catering & Special Events in Washington Township, where the former track star will receive another honor.

The New Milford Education Foundation at its inaugural gala will present Bailey with the Humanitarian of the Year award for his donation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the high school’s graduating seniors.

Bailey, now 46, established a scholarship in his former coach’s name in 2008, the same year Harrison retired. Since then, he has given four-year academic awards to 17 students: 10 from New Milford and seven from New York City schools. This year alone his charity, Building Foundations, will donate more than $100,000 toward tuition costs for 10 students studying at eight colleges and universities.

Each scholarship recipient also interns at Bailey’s law office the summer between his or her junior and senior years.

“Since he graduated, Adam has constantly kept an eye on New Milford public schools,” said Raymond Cottiers, chairman of the foundation’s gala committee. “A large number of students have benefited from his financial help, and for that, we decided to honor him with this award.”

Bailey said he is “extremely honored” to receive the award.

Today, Bailey is a best-selling author and successful real estate attorney in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife, Jennifer, and sons, Benjamin and Nathaniel.

But at 13, when he and his mother moved to New Milford, he was an easy target for bullies.

“New Milford is a fighting town, and it taught me to fight hard,” Bailey said.

Track and cross-country, he said, were his escape. And, he said, Harrison was like a father figure to him.

Bailey said the struggles he endured as a child — including the 1987 accident — shaped the way he is now.

“I’m very appreciative for all New Milford has given me,” he said.

Bailey said he looks for that same fighting spirit in the students he chooses for his scholarships.

“I want the hungriest and smartest kids you can find,” Bailey said. “I’m very picky.”

Scholarship recipients say Bailey’s help runs much deeper than the money he has donated.

Jennifer Teets, 22, a senior at The College of New Jersey, will enroll in an Ivy League graduate program in the fall. She is not sure where, because she was accepted to three: Columbia and Yale universities and the University of Pennsylvania.

Teets said the scholarship has allowed her to concentrate on her studies in public health and sociology, without having to work on the side.

“It’s not just a check,” Teets said. “He continues to make sure we’re happy and doing well, and he gives back again and again. To me, when I think about how much he’s donated — I don’t know, to me, that’s completely humanitarian.”

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