The Scholarship

Melissa’s Hope would like to congratulate our 2018 scholarship winners: Belinda Miller, Richard Suarez, Ashley Adamo, Laura Boyajian, Catherine Chen, Caitlin Malfitano, Josephine Roberts, Caitlin Stewart, Frank De Maio, Terry Li

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Melissa Centrella was a Nutley High School Graduate and resident of Kinnelon, NJ. Melissa left us in June of 2002 after a 20 year battle with dystonia. These scholarships will serve as a tribute to Melissa's life of courage and love.

In the fall of 2002, Melissa's friends and family gathered to create a scholarship fund in her honor. Melissa's life was a remarkable one. Having left her impression in the hearts of all who met her, we feel that it is now our turn to carry on her mission. Her mission in life was simple in name and complex in deed. Hers was a mission of love. Without question the purest heart known to those who met her, Melissa made it her life's work to help others, particularly those afflicted with dystonia. Through her mother Claire, Melissa put her energy behind many charitable causes. With her actions and words Melissa inspired everyone she met to be the best that they could be. It is with that same energy that her family and friends have gathered to award several yearly scholarships to students with the same passion to help others.

Each year, The Melissa’s Hope Foundation will award scholarships to students in New Jersey pursuing careers in Nursing, Medical Sciences or a Medical Technical field. Because medicine and care were so important to Melissa's everyday life, she had a deep respect for the people that helped to bring dignity, comfort and respect to her special needs. The Board Members know that Melissa loved to help people.  The students must display a record of volunteer work and other criteria for consideration. After all, it was Melissa's many sacrifices that made her the special person that she was.

Let us share some profound statements that will let you see the person she was:

One day her mom asked Melissa if she would like to go to Lourdes. Her response was: “No, mommy, because if I got better I would not know how to live in this world and if I did not get better, what would I have to hope for “.

Melissa prayed every night for others. One night she asked her mom:”Is it OK if I pray for me, will God mind?”

When she was not able to eat by mouth for five months, she asked Claire, her mother, to please get something to eat so that she could watch her eat.

Melissa’s life was filled of extraordinary challenges. Let us describe just a few:

  • Melissa‘s weight at one point was 77 lbs and formed stomach blockage. She could not eat by mouth for five months and eventually she had to have stomach bypass surgery.
  • In order to ensure she would not get pneumonia, they performed an esophagus wrap surgery
  • Melissa had an intrathecal pump placed in her stomach below the skin delivering morphine and baclofen to the spine and up to the brain continuously
  • She was accidentally medically overdosed and in a coma for three days
  • Melissa  had numerous surgeries and spent months as inpatient at the hospital

Yet, she was always thankful for her life!

Along the years we've received some Thank You's...