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K.C. gets into the ‘Get Up’ spirit

By Troy Schwindt Members of the Kansas City com-

munity participated in U.S. Figure Skating’s Get Up campaign, and a select few individuals and organiza- tions were recognized in the kiss and cry during a break in the men’s short program on Jan. 20. Get Up Kansas City honorees in-

cluded Tricia Melland and the organi- zation Operation Breakthrough. Melland spent her early childhood

years skating at Pepsi Ice Midwest in Kansas City. “It’s a funny story as to how I start-

ed skating [she was 18 months old],” Melland said. “My older brother was there for a birthday party and I threw a tantrum because my mom would not let me get on the ice. Finally, she rented skates that were four sizes too big and let me go out there. She was afraid I would come off the ice crying, but I loved it and stayed out there. From then on, I’ve always had a love for skating.” While having fun on the ice, she

remembers the feeling of the breeze on her face, and how skating allowed her to forget about everything else. “It inspired me a lot,” Melland said. Melland’s life, though, started

to change dramatically when she was 7 years old and became ill. At first, doctors had no answers for her condition. Eventually, she was diag- nosed with intestinal failure, anemia of chronic disease, myopathic pseu- do obstruction, adrenal insufficiency and a life-threatening chronic illness known as mitochondrial dysfunction. “Doctors claim there is no cure

for what I have, but I like to believe that there is no cure yet,” she said. “I

believe there is a cure waiting to be discovered any day and I hope to be part of finding that solution.” With her condition, Melland can’t

eat solid food. Her fluid and nutrition are delivered intravenously through a central line that goes to her heart. She has a service dog named Kenny, who detects her low blood sugar. Despite this challenging progno-

sis, Melland is able to live a productive and meaningful life. She graduated last year from St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, and is enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where she’s studying to become a biochemistry major. She’s also a member of the Chi Omega sorority. “I am grateful for my figure skating

background and training,” she said. “I learned at an early age how to get up and keep going whenever I would fall down. I know this lesson has contribut- ed to my resiliency and success in life.”

One of the great success sto-

ries in Kansas City is that of Opera- tion Breakthrough. This organization, started by two nuns in 1971, serves more than 400 needy children daily in its early learning and after-school programs, and provides education, health care and social services to low-income Kansas City families. “My CEO [Mary Esselman] says

that this is the most important work one will ever do,” said Tyler Baker, who runs the organization’s elemen- tary program. “What we do in Oper- ation Breakthrough is we focus on a two-generation model, so we help mom and dad as well as the kids, be- cause you can’t have a successful kid without a successful mom or dad. So

Tyler Baker of Operation Breakthrough and college student Tricia Melland are con- gratulated by Kansas City Mayor Sylves- ter “Sly” James Jr. and Olympic champion Scott Hamilton for their inspirational “Get Up” stories.

through family advocacy, social work and through little things like diapers all the way to big things like getting a job, housing, getting a GED for mom, that’s how we impact our friends, neighbors and, more importantly, the kids of Kansas City.” There are countless success sto-

ries, Baker said, of graduates of Op- eration Breakthrough who return to volunteer and help the cause. “When my 13-year-olds graduate

from me, they become volunteers,” Baker said. “So I have a child from 3 months all the way to 13, and they don’t just say ‘Thanks a lot,’ and walk away. They come back and give their time and volunteer with us.” Operation Breakthrough helps

children and their families get up and keep going in the face of adversity. “Our children and families often

fall because of circumstances beyond their control,” Esselman said. “Our job is to offer that hand up that says, ‘Come on. You can do it! Get back out there.’ And they do.”


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