WORCESTER TELEGRAM: Women's soccer standouts are Disney royaltyJanuary 18, 2007
By Rushmie Kalke
Telegram & Gazette Staff
Thursday, January 18, 2007
SHREWSBURY --- Deb J. Melander thought she couldn't top spending a week in the Florida sun, relaxing with her 19-year-old daughter and her daughter's three college roommates on the beach---that is until they were treated like royalty for a day.
While they were walking around the Magic Kingdom at Disney World last week, a park employee named Fred approached them and started asking them questions. Where did they live and what college did the young women attend? A little skeptical about the attention, Ms. Melander, 54, of Shrewsbury, wondered what he wanted.
Then he told them that they had been chosen as grand marshals. It meant that they would lead the daily parade that winds through the park filled with thousands of waving, picture-taking tourists.
Donning personalized Mickey Mouse ears and riding an open cart at the head of the parade were Ms. Melander; her daughter, Heather; and friends Kathleen Fitzgerald, Caitlin McMullan and Nicole Muratore, all sophomores at Assumption College.
HEATHER MELANDER (top left) (So., Shrewsbury, MA/Shrewbury) and CAITLIN MC MULLAN (bottom right)(So., East Hartford, CT/East Hartford) are both members of the Assumption College women's soccer team.
"When I took a look at their faces, they just dropped. There were millions of people around us, taking pictures and videotaping us. They were stricken at first, but the girls got into it," Ms. Melander said.
To add to the festivities, they had pictures taken by a professional photographer. And a voice over a loudspeaker boomed out every so often throughout the parade, "Let's welcome the Melander family from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts!"
Ms. Melander said her friend, Stephen McMahon of Waltham, a huge Disney fan, was thrilled for her. "He just thought it was the greatest thing. It is definitely something I wonÕt forget."
This vacation was special for Ms. Melander because it is one of the few times she has traveled since her husband died in a car accident 10 years ago. Before his death, they had bought a vacation timeshare, but it hadn't been used much except to be given away as gifts to friends and family.
After her husband's death, she poured all her energy into her children. But with her daughter in college, and her son, John, graduating this spring from George Washington University, Ms. Melander found herself in a quiet house.
"The constant running around stopped," she said. "I had to force myself to have a life of my own."
Ms. Melander, a nurse, studied for her real estate license and obtained it last year. She also decided to start traveling more, and asked Heather if she wanted to join her over winter break.
They chose Star Island Resort & Club in Kissimmee, Fla., and Heather invited her roommates to come. Heather was an athletic standout at Shrewsbury High School and now plays soccer at Assumption. She was sidelined last season with a knee injury that required surgery.
"I was glad to be able to give this to her, because she missed most of the season," Ms. Melander said. "She has been very diligent with her therapy. Her doctors say she is 95 percent back to normal."
While many college students wouldn't want their parents with them on vacation, Heather said she was happy to hang out with her mom and friends.
"We actually sat by the pool every day, and at night went out to dinner. It was a relaxing trip and nice to get away for a while," said Heather. "It was nice to have her there."
Ms. Melander wants to continue traveling, hoping to make stops in Europe, where she has never been. More importantly, she wants to turn this trip with her daughter into a tradition.
"I am hoping to do this with her annually. This was a chance for me to get to know her friends better and for her and I to bond. We had a great time together and a lot of laughs," she said.