Local teen brings Leukemia & Lymphoma Society event to Vail | VailDaily.com

Local teen brings Leukemia & Lymphoma Society event to Vail

Crowds gather at the Vail's first Light the Night Walk on Sept. 25. The event was organized by 13-year-old Melissa McCalley and attracted roughly 200 participants.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Last year local student Melissa McCalley started becoming more familiar with the hospital than an 12-year-old kid should be. In November her mom, Marci McCalley, was diagnosed with leukemia and started receiving treatment.

As a young child, Melissa had a few friends afflicted with the disease. She remembers participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk in Washington, D.C., in support of those friends. When Melissa’s mom explained to her that she now has the same disease, Melissa started thinking about those walks. They were in the hospital at the time and looked at the Leukemia & Lymphoma’s calendar for 2015; Melissa realized that there was a Denver walk going strong, but there was no Light the Night Walk in Vail.

So she started planning a local event.

‘STARTED WITH AN IDEA’

On Friday, Melissa McCalley’s Light the Night Walk hit the streets of Vail Village with about 200 participants. Melissa was overwhelmed.

“I thought we would have 30 or 40 people,” she said. “I can’t believe how much money we raised. It feels amazing.”

As of Friday, Melissa had raised $7,500 towards her mom’s treatment. She will continue to collect donations through the end of the day Wednesday, when she heads back to Denver for the capital city’s annual Light the Night Walk.

The Light the Night effort has also doubled as Melissa’s mitzvah project for her church, the B’nai Vail Congregation. Rabbi Joel Newman said he was really impressed with the effort.

“I think what’s so special about it is how it started with an idea,” he said from Friday’s walk. “She said ‘I’m doing this for my mom.’ And from nothing, we have this. So it just shows that you can start a ground swell of something by such a simple thought.”

A WALK WITH MOM

Many of Melissa McCalley’s friends were in attendance at the Vail Light the Night Walk on Friday night, as well as friends of her parents. While on the walk, the crowds passed an automated external defibrillator which was purchased by the McCalleys in 2013 and placed in Vail near the Children’s Fountain. A well known family in the community, the McCalleys are recognized for their generosity.

“They’re really involved in fundraisers and are a very giving family,” said Christine Albertson with Shaw Cancer Center. “They’re instilling in their daughter that spirit to give back to the community … that’s what I think is so cool about this, it’s not just adults raising money for other adults. It’s families and kids.”

Melissa planned the event in between school, after-school activities, homework and family time. She said she would sometimes check her page as many as 20 times per day.

Melissa’s father, Patrick McCalley, said for Melissa to plan this, she had to get way out of her comfort zone.

“It’s been a growing experience for her,” he said.

Speaking from Friday night’s event, Melissa said the best part of the experience was the walk itself.

“I don’t get to spend that much time out with my mom,” she said. “We don’t have time to go on walks like this together, so this is really nice.”

To donate or offer support, contact Melissa at melissa27rose@gmail.com or visit pages.lightthenight.org/rm/DenverL15/MarciStrong.