Giving Back - Melanie Pai Participates in the 2009 Equestrian of the Year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
When she was 4 years old, Melanie Pai took a trip to her aunts house that she would never forget. “It was the first time I had ever been on a horse. My aunt set me on the horse and I just took off. I’ve been involved (with horses) ever since.”
Pai grew up riding and practicing cutting and barrel racing on the cutting horses her family raised. She credits one summer where she competed in intermediate level jumping to where she learned the most about horses. She eventually became involved in the dressage discipline after witnessing an extended trot and was amazed by it.
As much as she loved horses, Pai took a break as her own family grew and became the proud mother of two sons and a daughter. One Christmas, her husband bought her a horse and she fell right back into the equestrian community. The family bought a ranch in Texas and quickly found out, ironically enough, her first son is highly allergic to horses.
In 1994, Melanie’s son Kyle, 6 at the time, was constantly sick, always running a fever, had a bout with scarlet fever and a case of bronchitis that lasted three months. Melanie remembered, “Kyle was only 6 years old and was so exhausted that he put himself to bed…what 6 year old puts themselves to bed?”
Kyle wouldn’t eat and began to develop bruises all over his body. He then started to complain about pain in his wrists and in his legs. Horrified by what she saw, Melanie took Kyle to the doctor where he was given a blood test. As the results came back he was immediately sent to Texas Children’s Hospital.
Kyle was admitted to Texas Children’s and began the fight of his life. He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is the leading form of leukemia in children representing approximately 85% of leukemia patients under the age of 19. ALL is primarily diagnosed in children between 2 and 10 years of age, however it is found in people of all ages.
For the next three years, Melanie and her family were in and out of the hospital and faced many ups and downs throughout Kyle’s treatment. “I had to become a vigilant person and try to balance my family’s lives.” At 9 years old, Kyle was taken off chemo and was in remission. “It was such a long road...everyone I met along the way had a different story. Every child that walked into that hospital with Kyle....didn’t survive.”
Five years later, Melanie decided she was ready to give back and fight the disease that turned her family’s life upside down. She started by participating in her children’s schools with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program and attended local chapter dinners. In addition to supporting the LLS, Pai became the proud owner of the Canaan Ranch in Texas and Virginia and currently has horses in Germany and Wellington, Florida. The Canaan Ranch facilities offer training, sales, boarding and showing as well as breeding and mare care.
This year, Pai was told about the LLS’s “Equestrian of the Year” campaign. The “Equestrian of the Year” is a fundraising campaign which welcomes equestrians from all disciplines and levels to compete against each other to see who can raise the most amount of money for the LLS. The Equestrian who raises the most money will be crowned the 2009 “Equestrian of the Year.” “I was so excited and ready to go as a participant…it really brings my two worlds together,” Pai stated.
A cocktail party and silent auction for the entire equestrian community will be held on Thursday, February 12, 2009 at Grant Farms in Wellington, Florida. At this event, participants and supporters of the “Equestrian of the Year” will enjoy cocktails, a light dinner and a silent auction while anxiously waiting to hear who will be announced the winner.
The 2009 Equestrian of the Year Participants include Erin Cartwright, Meg Hilly, Don Later, Nancy Later, Melanie Pai and Susan Still.
To learn more about the “Equestrian of the Year”, visit www.lls.org/pbeq or call 888-478-8550. All proceeds from the event will benefit the LLS’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.