Lakewood Ranch Herald

Lakewood Ranch High School dancer has much to be thankful for

MANATEE -- Melanie Hahn has a powerful Thanksgiving story to tell and she is set to share it Thursday morning during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade the best way she knows how -- through dance.

Melanie and her family lost their New Orleans home in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters roared through a busted levee right into St. Bernard Parish.

The home where then-11-year-old Melanie lived with her mother, father and two brothers was filled with 11 feet of black, slimy sludge.

The bedroom where she practiced her dance steps, listened to her CDs and dreamed of the future, was gone. On top of everything, her mother and father informed her she had to leave her friends behind. The family was moving to Sarasota.

“Everything was destroyed,” said Hope Hahn, Melanie’s mother. “For awhile, she was depressed.”

But six years later, Melanie is now a confident 17-year-old Lakewood Ranch High School senior and has gotten back virtually everything that she had lost.

Although her original home and school dance team are things of the past, Melanie has a new adopted home in the Greenbrook section of Lakewood Ranch -- and she never quit on dancing.

She is now a four-year member of the Lakewood Ranch High Silver Stars Dance Team and was its captain this year.

She plans to dance in college at either Florida State or the University of Central Florida next year, as well as study to be an orthodontist.

On Monday, Melanie was in dancing heaven, watching the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

“Everything was sparkly, beautiful and perfect,” she said.

And Thursday morning, Melanie is scheduled to march, cheer and dance in the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is on NBC-TV from 9 a.m. to noon.

Melanie was invited by the group Spirit of America to perform in today’s iconic parade. Her mother, who is also the Silver Stars coach, went with her to New York.

“Melanie will be in the second half of the parade after the 16th commercial,” Hope Hahn said. “There is a gigantic football that says Macy’s on it in Melanie’s group, so when you see that, Melanie will be nearby.”

Melanie will be wearing a green, black and silver long-sleeved uniform with a star on the chest and pom-poms in hand.

Melanie was scheduled to be on the 2 1/2-mile parade route shortly after 7 a.m. today.

Back home in Lakewood Ranch, Melanie’s father, Randy, is recording the whole show.

Melanie plans to give it her all every step.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and I am thankful every minute,” she said.

Melanie’s story shows us that life brings second chances if we let it, her mother said.

“I think Melanie is all the way back,” Hope Hahn said. “She is very resilient. I find that all of her experiences have made her into a strong and independent young lady. She does wonderful in school. She has a plan for her future.”

“We were all devastated and now we feel God had a better plan for us. Things just fell into place. We all have back what we used to have.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.