Unsung Heroes
Melissa Nerone
by Jacque Garcia
The Times-Independent
Nov 23, 2017 | 1804 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melissa Nerone smiles with members of the GCHS mountain biking team, Heather Sweeney (left), and Annie Kopell (right). 
													 Photo courtesy Melissa Nerone
Melissa Nerone smiles with members of the GCHS mountain biking team, Heather Sweeney (left), and Annie Kopell (right). Photo courtesy Melissa Nerone
Melissa Nerone has been a dedicated Moabite since 2006. The business she started, Event Medical Support, is entirely based in caring for her community, but her passion for helping others does not stop there.

“I guess she doesn’t need sleep,” said Kristi Jensen, her close personal friend. It’s the only way Jensen can fathom how Nerone maintains her jam-packed schedule. Outside of her own business, Nerone is intricately involved in the community as a Grand County Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer, a mentor for local children and the coach of the Grand County High School mountain biking team.

Event Medical Support was born out of Nerone’s career as a backcountry mountain biking guide. She recognized a need for first responders and first aid providers that work mountain bike races and other events in the area, so she set out to fill that need. Nerone’s business remains busy throughout the year at all major outdoors events in the area.

Nerone said she extends her ability to care for people in the Moab area by volunteering for SAR.

“People sometimes bite off more than they can chew here in Moab,” she said, “To me it’s about karma. If someone’s having a bad day, they’re going to want someone to help them. If I ever need help, I hope someone would save me.”

It’s not easy to balance SAR with a full-time job. “They wake you up at 2 a.m., and then you have to wake up and go to work in the morning,” said Jensen of the time Nerone commits to volunteering. SAR has seen over 120 incidents this year, and Nerone serves as an officer, so on days when she is managing, she must respond.

The personal toll in such a position can be both physical and emotional. “There’s no class to take, there’s no real training you get for when you show up on scene and it’s a friend,” Nerone said.

When she’s not rescuing adventurers in the backcountry, Nerone can be found mentoring children in the community. She considers her weekly commitment to the mentoring program as one of the most enjoyable parts of her week.

“Going to mentoring is like my calming hour of the week where I can just relax and have some fun. We do everything from sports, to arts and crafts projects, to field trips, and there are a couple of holidays where we do cookie decorating,” she said.

“Before I moved to Moab, my career was spent as an educator. And while I was here in Moab living the mountain bike lifestyle, I really felt like I was missing that connection to kids,” Nerone said. This drive led her both to enroll in the mentorship program and to initiate the CGHS mountain biking team.

Nerone views the team as a way to encourage good attitude and strong character, while allowing all kids on the team a chance to compete. “There’s no bench in mountain biking,” she remarked.

Don Wiseman, a riding leader for the mountain biking team, has worked with Nerone for several years. Wiseman is a former coach for the Sun Valley, Idaho ski teams, coaching more than 500 kids in a variety of sports, so he is no stranger to children’s sports teams. Of this experience, he said, “I always felt there had to be a better model, and I see that with [Nerone].”

“She’s absolutely amazing,” he added, “Quite an asset for these kids. She’s passionate about mountain biking and physical activities.”

In a way that combined her passion for biking with her experience mentoring, Nerone has a special talent for turning hobby riders into competitors by showing them competing is fun. She lets the children set their own goals, and empowers them to achieve them.

“She’s creating an atmosphere where these kids want to come back and train,” explained Wiseman.

Nerone’s investment in the team, just as to her other commitments, is driven not by a sense of obligation, but by an authentic passion for what she does.

The team practices as many as four days each week for five months throughout the fall. “I always refer to myself as being triple booked in the fall,” Nerone joked as to her busy schedule this time of year. “I rest and sleep a lot now that things are coming to an end.”

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