Raised in North Kohala on Hawai’i Island, Leelen earned his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. He began his career in the non-profit sector with The Boy Scouts of America and later joined The Food Basket in April 2020.

At The Food Basket, Leelen served as COVID-19 Project Manager, overseeing islandwide Ohana Food Drops – large-scale food distribution events. He led 170 Ohana drops during his tenure and progressed through various roles, including Deputy Director for Healthy Food Access Initiatives and later, Director of Community Engagement and Innovation. Currently, Leelen serves as Director of Development.