The Melanie Foundation

Melanie Merola O'Donnell

The Melanie Foundation was created in 2006 to honor the life and legacy of Melanie Merola O’Donnell, with the mission to foster support for mental health issues. Melanie lived a life of giving, focusing her career on relieving suffering inflicted by mental illness. Melanie died at the age of 33 while in the midst of doctoral studies in psychology. Her family and friends subsequently collaborated to bring The Melanie Foundation to life, with the initial goal of providing scholarships to people who had the best chance of extending Melanie’s legacy, graduate students in a mental health field. The Melanie Foundation’s most significant fundraiser, The Saratoga Palio, has become a signature event in Saratoga each fall. Its success has helped The Melanie Foundation expand its support of aspiring mental health practitioners. The success also has enabled The Melanie Foundation to give back to Saratoga Springs – the community that gave us Melanie.

Since 2009, The Melanie Foundation has awarded a scholarship in her name to an outstanding post-graduate student in the field of mental health. In addition, a portion of funds raised each year are donated to local nonprofit organizations. Past recipients include Saratoga Bridges, the mental health unit of Saratoga Hospital, Franklin Community Center, World’s Window, Jake’s Help from Heaven, Saratoga WarHorse, Saratoga Center for the Family, The Shelters of Saratoga, and The Senior Support Services of the Saratoga Senior Center.

For 2018, in addition to the scholarship fund, The Melanie Foundation will be making a donation to support the Latino Community Advocacy Program. The Latino Community Advocacy Program is a service of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council that provides interpreting, advocacy and educational programming to Latino immigrants in Saratoga County. Established in 2005, the Latino Community Advocacy Program has provided over a decade of bilingual support services to families in our communities, helping them to access healthcare, legal services, K-12 and adult educational programs, employment training and more. The Latino Community Advocacy program also provides English as a Second Language classes and arts programming through an annual photography workshop series and exhibit titled "Estamos Aquí (We Are Here)". Services are offered year round and also seasonally at the Saratoga Race Course backstretch. As a program of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, the designated community action agency for Saratoga County, the Latino Community Advocacy Program extends the agency's mission of providing and promoting opportunities to individuals and families to achieve self-sufficiency to address the needs of Latino immigrants in our communities.

In 2017, a donation of $15,000 was made to The Senior Support Services of the Saratoga Senior Center. The Senior Support Services of the Saratoga Senior Center is working to empower seniors to achieve and maintain personal independence and individual well being.

In 2016, a donation of $12,500 was made to Shelters of Saratoga. The mission of Shelters of Saratoga is to provide individuals with safe shelter, supportive services and sustainable strategies to help end homelessness in the greater Saratoga region.

Also in 2016, a donation of $2,500 was made to the Night Out for You organization. Night Out for You is a not for profit organization whose mission is creating an experience for an adult undergoing cancer treatment, allowing them to remember who they are by forgetting their diagnosis for a few hours.

SaratogaCenterForTheFamily In 2015, a donation of $12,500 was made to Saratoga Center for the Family. The center’s mission is to strengthen children, families and the community by reducing the effects of abuse, trauma and family dysfunction through advocacy, education and mental health therapy.

icon-warhorse In 2014, a donation of $15,000 was made to Saratoga WarHorse Foundation. Saratoga WarHorse provides a 3-day confidential, peer-to-peer, equine-based program to veterans struggling with the effects of PTSD, sleeplessness or suicidal thoughts.

icon-jakes In 2013, a donation of $10,000 was made to Jake’s Help From Heaven. The Jake’s Help From Heaven Foundation, founded in 2011, is a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting individuals with multiple medical challenges and disabilities.

icon-window In 2012, a donation of $7,500 was made to World’s Window. Word’s Window, Inc.’s mission seeks to develop, support, and expand education initiatives and programs in areas of need throughout Belize, New York and beyond, thereby providing hope and possibility, empowering individuals and communities for a brighter future.

icon-franklin In 2011 a donation of $7,500 was made to Franklin Community Center. Franklin Community Center is a non-profit organization providing basic necessities and services to less fortunate individuals and families in Saratoga. Their mission is to work collaboratively with individuals and other agencies to provide services that will improve the quality of life and foster a sense of neighborhood, community and family for all people.

icon-hospital In 2010 a donation of $6,500 was made to the Saratoga Hospital Inpatient Mental Health Unit. The Saratoga Hospital Mental Health unit offers the community mental health services through their 16-bed inpatient Mental Health Unit.

icon-bridges In 2009 a donation of $5,000 was made to Saratoga Bridges.

Applying for the Scholarship

What is being awarded?

The Melanie Foundation Scholarship is a $2,500 scholarship to be awarded to a candidate pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree in the mental health field.

How long will the scholarship last?

The scholarship will be awarded to a candidate for one year. Candidates may reapply for additional years.

Who is eligible for the scholarship?

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Currently enrolled in a graduate program majoring in the mental health field in the United States. Programs must be accredited by one or more of the following credentialing agencies: ACGME, APA, CACREP, CSWE, COAMFTE.
  • Provide evidence of past involvement in extracurricular, volunteer, research, and/or career-related activities.

What are the application requirements?

  • Curriculum vitae. Please include e-mail address. (PDF)
  • Unofficial transcripts (undergraduate and/or graduate). Official transcripts may be requested at a later date. (PDF)
  • Two letters of reference supporting the candidate’s application from adults who have known the candidate for more than 1 year (at least one from a professional in the mental health field, another from an individual who has known the candidate for 5 years or more). Letters of reference should be emailed directly to our email address with the applicant’s name as the subject of the email ( (PDF)
  • A typed (double-spaced) essay of no more than two pages on how your experiences in the mental health profession have shaped your life and how you will use your college and graduate education to assist communities in a manner consistent with Melanie Merola O’Donnell’s values of compassion, generosity, respect, and honesty. (PDF)

All application materials must be sent together as a PDF in one email, with the reference letters arriving separately with the applicant’s name in the subject line. Please be clear about this when requesting a reference. If your documents exceed the amount of space allowed in one email you may send multiple emails but please do so during the same time frame so they arrive together.

As an option you may choose one of the following quotes to incorporate into your statement:

“You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~Mother Teresa

“If we all did things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
~Thomas Alva Edison


All applications are due by March 5, 2018. Scholarship recipients will be personally notified and publicly announced by June 30, 2018. All other applicants will be notified electronically.

The Melanie Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, Vietnam-era or disabled veteran status in its selection process.

If you have questions, email us at:

Please send all materials to:

Privacy Policy: The Melanie Foundation does not collect information from site visitors only from applicants to the scholarship. The applicant information collected is used exclusively to select a scholarship recipient. Applicants will be contacted only if there are clarifying questions regarding application information and to inform applicants of their status. Thank you.

Scholarship Recipients

The mission of The Melanie Foundation is to provide financial assistance to graduate students in the mental health field.

Each year scholarships are awarded in Ms. O’Donnell’s name to promote her legacy of helping others through the exercise of wisdom and compassion. Through scholarship awards and fundraising activities, the Foundation seeks to raise awareness about the inextricable link between mental health issues and community violence. Moreover, scholarship recipients advance the Foundation’s mission by devoting their energies and talents to the needs of victims, as well as the needs of emergency management professionals and health care practitioners.

2017 Recipients:
Sarajane Rodgers - Antioch University New England
Sarah Levant - Boston University
Beth Waterman - Lesley University
Andrea Wierzchowski - Texas Woman's University

2016 Recipients:
Ava Lorenzo - Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Brittany McDonald - University at Albany
Jessica Francar - Philadelphia University
Melissa Smigelsky - Clinical Psychology University of Memphis
Mina Rakalkar - Drexel University

The Saratoga Palio

The Melanie Foundation’s most significant fundraiser, The Saratoga Palio, has become a signature event in Saratoga each fall. Its success has helped The Melanie Foundation expand its support of aspiring mental health practitioners. The Saratoga Palio is fast becoming a regional favorite, thanks to its breathtaking course through the heart of Saratoga Springs and for the great cause it supports. And with a certified 5K run/walk, a children’s run, and a certified half marathon, the Saratoga Palio is as exciting for families as it is for serious runners. The success also has enabled The Melanie Foundation to give back to Saratoga Springs – the community that gave us Melanie.