Tragedy as a Catalyst for Change: Melissa Wandall’s Story
Inspirational stories, ones of strength and resilience, will be featured on September 9th at the 4th Annual Working Women State Conference at The Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa.
Leading women speakers from around the country will share their stories and offer career guidance during this two-day conference designed to motivate, educate and inspire. One of those speakers is Bradenton mom, Melissa Wandall.
October 24, 2003, is a day that changed Melissa’s life. It’s the day her husband was killed when the car he was in was hit by a driver who ran a red light.
Melissa was nine months pregnant at the time and was faced with the terrifying truth that her baby girl, Madisyn, would never know her father.
“I made the decision right there to find a way to find his love and that my daughter would know him in this life and that she wouldn’t be a victim,” said Melissa.
Since that tragic day, her story has been one of resiliency, empowerment and “embracing the love and not the loss.”
“You do what you do in the hopes of inspiring people. I keep being pulled to places and people that need me. It’s the trust and the faith that I’m in the right place.”
And that gives her the motivation to go on.
After her husband’s death, Melissa utilized life Insurance funds to start a foundation for children in grief – The Mark Wandall Foundation, while simultaneously starting a coalition – The STOP! Red Light Running Coalition of Florida, to pass a life-saving bill in her husband’s name – The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act.
As a speaker for the past six years on the value of life insurance, she gave valuable insights to the business world and was the recipient of the “Embrace Life” award by State Farm.
On May 13, 2010, the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act was passed by Florida legislature. The bill assures $3 from each traffic ticket in Florida goes to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, founded by Dr. Barth A. Green and Miami Dolphins football player Nick Buoniconti, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The Miami Project is the number one brain and spinal institute in the United States and designated center of excellence.
Another $10 from each ticket goes to 22 Level 1 Trauma Centers in the state of Florida. The bill has raised more than $30 million for those trauma centers and $15 million for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
“People are walking again because of those funds,” she said.
In addition to educating adults, a big part of her outreach and education focuses on children.
The Mark Wandall Foundation facilitates and funds a partnership with Comfort Zone Camp, a free bereavement camp for children from ages 5-18.
“The camp is important because after the loss of a parent or caregiver, the children no longer no how to connect with people.” It’s important that they hear: “Hey it’s not your fault.”
“The incredible thing is – Mark is still the love of my life. I love him as much today as I did then. I’m so grateful that his love that we shared is doing something incredible in this world and at the end of the day. That’s what helps me sleep at night.”
You can hear Melissa’s inspiring story during the 4th Annual Working Women Conference at The Straz Performing Arts Center on September 9th. The conference kicks off on Thursday evening with a networking reception. You can register for both days at WorkingWomenConference.com.
Article by Marsha Strickhouser