HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The 16th annual Miracle Bash and Swim for Melissa are coming up next month. And this year’s swim will be a mix of emotions for the George family. When Chris and Amy George established the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund 16 years ago, they had no idea the impact her short life would have on the area. Melissa died shortly after birth. Her fund has raised 4.2 million dollars to help other babies and families who come through the regional NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children.
Melissa’s twin sister, Ann Catherine survived. She turned 16 this year! “I did,” she said with a huge smile, “Yes.” And she got her driver’s license! “I am a good safe driver,” she said emphatically, “I am.” It’s one of her miracle milestones. “Very experienced on the road,” she said with a laugh.
And nobody is happier than her younger sister, Lily Baker. She was waiting for her to return home the day she got her license because she needed a ride. “She’s my personal chauffer when it comes to driving,” she told me. When I asked if she tips her, she smiled and replied, “She makes me pay for lunch sometimes.”
The bond they share is much deeper than some sisters ever have. They’ve raised money from the time they were old enough to dive into the pool to swim for Melissa. Ann Catherine aged out two years ago, swimming for the last time. But she’s still involved in making the event fun for other kids and their families. “I still get up in the morning and do everything and I’m a part of it. I’m just not jumping in the water,” she said, “So, it feels the same but it’s just like a little bit of less nervousness because I don’t have to swim in front of a bunch of people. But it’s the same really, I think. Nothing’s changed.”
This year, AC will cheer on LB who is swimming for the last time. “I’m really sad about it honestly because I’ve been doing it, I’ve been a part swim in this way as long as I can remember so I think it’s going to be very weird for me to not be able to swim anymore,” Lily Baker told me, “But I’m still thankful that I do get to be a part of it like Ann Catherine does in volunteering.”
The George girls are the future of Melissa’s fund. “I think it’s an honor to be able to be a part of this and to be able to one day be like more in charge and take it over because this fund means so much to us and our family and to us specifically that I can’t imagine not being a part of it my whole life,” Lily Baker told me.
The sisters are the next generation to make sure the little miracles and their families get the best care possible in the NICU. It’s also important to them to continue Melissa’s legacy. “If you look at what’s happened in just 16 years and you imagine in what’s going to happen in 20 more years, 15 more years after that,” Ann Catherine said, “So, it can only go up from here.”