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How Paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell Is Helping Health Care Workers Stay Fed, Motivated

By Karen Price | May 03, 2020, 1:38 p.m. (ET)

Melissa Stockwell hauls snacks she is raising funds for and purchasing for front-line health care workers in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

Once a week, Melissa Stockwell goes to Costco and loads her Toyota 4Runner up with boxes and boxes of snacks. 

Granola bars, cookies, chips, single-serving mac and cheese, fruit cups, crackers, oatmeal, you name it.

No, the two-time Paralympic paratriathlete isn’t stress eating. 

Stockwell started a program called “Snacks for Superheroes” and has been making deliveries once a week to the staff at a local hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who are on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. 

“I think we all want to do something, whether it’s donating money or whatever, we all want to do something,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if this was going to work out or how much money I would raise but (I just made) our fourth delivery.”

Stockwell initially wanted to deliver meals to hospital workers after seeing a news story about an organization started in New Jersey called FLAG — Front Line Appreciation Group. She reached out to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central and learned that they were actually overwhelmed with meals from community members eager to help. 

“Which is not a bad thing,” Stockwell said. “Then they said what they could use were snacks for doctors and nurses to grab when they have a second, in the break room or before or after their shifts.”

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Stockwell set up a Facebook fundraiser and has been collecting money through Venmo. So far, she’s raised about $3,500 and received donations of snacks as well. Some local restaurants have also donated gift cards so that workers can grab food on their way to or from work.

Amy Dempsey is the special events coordinator at UCHealth who has been working with Stockwell to accept the donations. The first time she arrived, Dempsey said, she went out to Stockwell’s car with a small cart thinking that would suffice.

It would not. Dempsey had to bring in reinforcements to get everything in the building.

“She took the idea and ran with it,” Dempsey said. “She knocked my socks off. She gave us so much stuff.”

They’ve been distributing the snacks a few ways, Dempsey said. Back in March they were going around to different units on different days of the week with a cart filled with treats and handing things out to staff members. 

Lately they’ve been setting up in the morning at the employee entrance with tables full of snacks and drinks so people can grab what they want, either on their way to begin their shifts or on their way home. They’ve also been displaying all the thank-you cards sent from community members in the same area.

“Just seeing what people are saying about it, they’re saying it’s such a nice welcome to work in the morning and nice to get the treats,” she said. “One nurse said, ‘It makes me feel like I’m a football player in the tunnel getting ready to go out on the field and I know it’s going to be a good day and I can face it because of these people and these treats.’ I think they’re really loving it.”

Helping out also has become a family project for the Stockwells. She and her husband have a prosthetic company in Colorado Springs and have been using the sewing machines to help make masks. Their 5-year-old son Dallas has been interested in what’s happening with the snacks, too.

“He asks about the snacks and I say it’s for the doctors and nurses who are helping get rid of the germs,” she said. “A few weeks ago he made a little sign that said, ‘Thank you doctors and nurses’ that we added to the delivery, and he wanted to help pack the car the other night, so I think he gets it.”

The good news in Colorado Springs, Stockwell and Dempsey said, is that the numbers of new COVID-19 cases are going down and patients are being discharged. As long as people want to continue to donate, however, Stockwell said she’ll continue to purchase and drop off the snacks. Especially with National Nurses Week starting May 6 and what she hopes will be continued appreciation of health care workers moving forward, Stockwell said, she believes there will be a continued interest in helping. 

Donations can be made either via the link found on the FLAG — Front Line Appreciation Group of Colorado Springs — Facebook page or through Stockwell’s Venmo account at MStockwell01. 

“This is at least helping a little bit,” she said. “Who doesn’t love snacks? It’s just snacks, but it helps me feel like I’m doing a little something.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Melissa Stockwell