Melanie lived her life with honesty, passion, courage, humor and compassion. She strove to improve herself as she strove to improve others. She tried to maintain balance in her life – work, play, friends, family, giving, getting, teaching, learning, self, and others. She spoke for the principles she believed in with quiet, respectful determination.
Melanie was someone who was not afraid to challenge herself, confront obstacles, or reach outside her comfort zone in an effort to deepen her understanding of herself and of others’ experiences.
Throughout her life, Melanie worked to help people in need and to better the world. She volunteered with and later became a staff member of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) and a board member for 8 years of the Capital Area Crisis Response Team (CACRT). She trained crisis responders for the organizations until 2004. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, she coordinated the care of 28 crisis response teams in New York City and 8 teams in Washington. She also aided crisis responders in Somerset County, PA, following the attacks. Melanie spent several weeks in New York City, helping grieving families who were visiting the site of the attacks and coping with the aftermath. She provided care to individuals affected by natural disasters, plane crashes, school violence, the civil war in Sierra Leone, workplace violence and homicide. In June 2004, she was honored as the first recipient of the Melanie Merola O’Donnell Award for Excellence, given by the Capital Area Crisis Response Team. Melanie played an instrumental role in improving her native community of Saratoga Springs, NY. She was influential in the creation of a community- based crisis response team and formed Saratoga Families, a support group for adoptive families.
Amidst Melanie’s professional responsibilities and accomplishments, her devotion to her husband, son, mother, father, sister, family, and friends was never compromised.
The characteristics and compassion demonstrated by Melanie are ones that hold the promise of an exceptional mental health practitioner. These are the characteristics that the scholarship committee hopes the scholarship money can recognize and foster.