ANDOVER – Jay Leno’s mom taught him never to visit someone’s home empty-handed.
And so, when he stopped by the Cormier Youth Center in his native Andover on Saturday, he had a check for $10,000 tucked in his jacket pocket.
Leno’s visit was the highlight of a weekend celebrating 25 years of Andover Youth Services.
Bill Fahey, who has been involved with the program from its inception, graciously accepted Leno’s surprise gift before giving him a tour of the facility and stopping in the gym to chat with kids.
He praised the hometown funny man for his down-to-Earth nature and willingness to support Andover’s youngest residents.
“Jay is known for thinking out the box and being fun,” Fahey said. “We’re so happy to have him here, where we strive for the same things.”
Leno was joined at the youth center by his best friend of 60 years, Lew Trumbore, who still lives in town and has frequent phone calls with Leno.
“Almost every day,” Trumbore laughed. “He never forgot his roots.”
On his way into the building, Leno was greeted by a display of antique cars, which he is known to collect, and handshakes from wide-eyed locals awaiting the celebrity sighting.
“He’s here,” one man said. “That’s really him.”
“Welcome back to the neighborhood,” a woman yelled.
Another woman let out a soft “wow,” before taking an iPhone from her pocket and asking for a photo.
However, not everyone was star struck. Waiting for Leno among scores of fans was his fourth-grade teacher, Martha Allen Walsh.
He was the one surprised by that reunion.
“Mrs. Allen!” Leno yelled before hugging her.
“Lifelong teachers are the best,” Leno said. “People who teach to teach. They’re in it for the long haul.”