When Leon Burns III stepped up to lead, he didn’t just take charge of a business. He embraced a philosophy—a blend of hard work, honesty, and integrity—rooted deeply within his father’s principles when he founded Open Technology Group in 1992, and that has continued since his passing from lung cancer in 2011.
Through initiatives like breaking down barriers for African American youth in the IT field, producing the YouTube series “Black Mental Health Matters,” promoting diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, and co-chairing an annual fundraising event for LUNGevity Foundation, Leon continues his father’s—Leon Burns Jr.’s—dedication to going above and beyond, and doing it with enthusiasm.
"It's always an honor to serve in any capacity in the position that I'm CEO and President. It's an honor to serve the people I work with because I know we're making a very big difference, not only in the workplace but in the community." A sentiment backed up by strong community action.
With their team, Open Technology Group: United for a Cure, back in action for LUNGevity's Breathe Deep TOGETHER for the first time since 2019, Leon shares how they built their legacy of resilience, empathy, and unwavering commitment to give back to their community.
A Father’s Legacy and a Son’s Promise
"Taking the time to do the things that you can do while you have the opportunity to," was vividly lived by his father and now echoes through Leon’s actions and decisions, from moving back to DC, attending grad school, ascending to the role of CEO at Open Technology Group, and leading the charge with United for a Cure.
The memories, especially those where his father demonstrated acts of encouragement and inspiration, such as participating in wind sprints during an eighth-grade football practice, are more than recollections. They symbolize a constant drive to embody the commendable qualities observed in his father.
Leon reminisces about the beautiful, yet heart-wrenching 90 days spent with his father prior to his passing, highlighting that these moments were not days filled with regrets, but instead with resilience and spirit.
“My father was the hardest-working person that I knew, "Leon recounts, admiring the strength and determination his father consistently demonstrated—virtues that Leon strives for in every endeavor.
A Community Turning Grief into Action
Leon's father, a pillar of strength and inspiration until the very end, did not let his lung cancer diagnosis in 2009 dim the spirit or love around him. Leon recalls, “Something that will always stick with me was that he never complained. My dad gave 100%, showed gratitude, and always made it clear that he loved us. I am forever grateful for that.”
And then, in 2011, during Leon’s senior year in college, with no regrets and leaving nothing on the table, his father passed away from lung cancer. The loss was profound.
Taking action to fundraise for lung cancer became a collective community mission, thanks to the initiatives taken by Leon’s mother, Debby. The community, especially their church, New Canaan Baptist Church, where his father had been well-known and loved, and People’s Community Baptist Church, continue being the cornerstones in their charitable efforts today.
United for a Cure is more than a team attending an event for lung cancer; it’s a heartfelt, fruitful reunion of people they love and care about every year.
United for a Cure: Cultivating Community and Awareness for Lung Cancer
Building a powerful legacy of being a top fundraiser and a robust community wasn’t always easy. Leon candidly reveals the challenges, “You do have some days where you’re asking for the bare minimum, and people still aren’t willing to give it.”
Yet, there is still hope that every small effort can lead to larger breakthroughs, and that’s what continues to fuel their commitment. Every dollar, every conversation, carries the potential to spark a change, lead to better treatment options, and prevent another family from having the same heartache of loss.
Their presence at LUNGevity Foundation’s Breathe Deep TOGETHER is a reminder of what people can accomplish when you work together to build a strong community. With 40 team members strong, Open Technology Group: United for a Cure will certainly make their presence known in Washington, D.C. Having already raised over $23,000 this year, totaling more than $159,000 since 2015, in addition to sponsoring the event at the $5,000 level, they are undoubtedly creating change for people living with lung cancer.
Leon extends a comforting message for those grieving the pain of losing a loved one, “There is hope in your journey.” Hope in finding your community that will empathize, offer support, and band TOGETHER towards a common cause to make a difference.
As a team, Open Technology Group: United for a Cure has a warm and welcoming message to anyone feeling alone: We are a loving, friendly team and are open to anyone looking for community and support.
The nation's largest lung cancer event to kick off Lung Cancer Awareness Month, celebrate the milestones achieved in lung cancer research, and advocate for continued change. In-person events happening in Boston, Chicago, D.C., New York City, and NE Pennsylvania include a Lung Cancer Resource Fair, unified walk, and activities for families of all ages.