Melissa Wells fundraiser proves an exception to the rule


By Christina Lieffring

College-wide fundraising for individuals are rare but precedented

All faculty and student emails at the college receive InfoList emails, which is why the content is restricted to only “col­lege business,” according to Julie Haas, associate vice president of marketing and communications.

“The ‘trucks for sale,’ ‘kitten needs a home,’ ‘I have Girl Scout cookies,’ that goes out over the college’s list which is general chat,” said Haas. “In exchange for everyone being on InfoList, it’s only college business.”

Which is why the email about Melissa Wells and the efforts to raise money for her heart transplant, sent through the InfoList on Monday, Sept. 29, surprised members of the community. Counselor Alicia Bredehoeft, who is organizing the efforts to help the Wells, acknowledges that health and financial issues often go hand-in-hand.

“Their situation is very unique in the sense that Melissa is very healthy other than her heart, so she’s a very strong can­didate for a heart transplant,” said Brede­hoeft. “[Also] it’s affecting two of our community members because they both work here in the counseling center.”

Melissa and Alex Wells have been with the counseling center since 2007 when they were interns finishing their graduate studies, Melissa was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. After their engage­ment and marriage, Melissa was given the “green light” by her doctors to have a baby and gave birth to a healthy son. But afterwards her heart issues re-emerged. The Wells do not have family who are able to help them so, according to Brede­hoeft, the counselors decided to help them in any way they could.

“We are their family and we’ve been their family,” said Bredehoeft.

When it became clear that a transplant was necessary, the group’s organizers helped register Melissa with the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT), a non-profit organization that can accept dona­tions on their behalf to help cover medical bills, their mortgage and utilities for up to three months after the transplant. The av­erage cost of a heart transplant in the U.S. is estimated at $1 million. Haas said she felt comfortable bringing their proposal to use the InfoList to the president’s cabi­net because of the gravity of the situation, the organization of the fundraising and their partnership with the NFT. The cabin reviewed the proposal and approved for it to go out.

“It’s very rare [but] there is precedent for it,” said Haas. “If you look out on the wall over by the entrance by GEB, Gene Jack is on that wall.”

Gene Jack was a science professor at the college who was diagnosed with can­cer in the 1990s.

“There was a campus-wide fundrais­ing effort for him,” said Haas. “So there’s precedent for that. We just haven’t had a situation like that since then.”

The Gene Jack Memorial Scholarship was created in his memory and is fund­ed by the annual fall book sale in COM. Melissa is on the heart transplant list, which has an average waiting period of six months.


Contact Christina Lieffring, news editor,


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