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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 5 years ago

The fighter

Angela Melvin battles back tears at work, where she counsels young children grieving the death of a loved one. It's a different kind of tussle outside work.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Executive: Angela Melvin, CEO of Valerie's House for Grieving Families, Fort Myers. Melvin lost her mother, Valerie, in a car crash when she was a child. She wanted to create a place that helps youngsters who have lost loved ones come to grips with their loss and ease their suffering.

Melvin, a 40-year-old former congressional staffer and television news reporter, and Caryn Smith, a Fort Myers businesswoman and civic activist, led a fundraising campaign to launch Valerie's House. It opened in January 2016 and is one of 500 organizations worldwide modeled after the nationally recognized Dougy Center for Grieving Children.

Diversion: Eights round on a heavy bag using punching and kicking techniques of muay thai, a mental and physical martial arts discipline that uses the entire body as a weapon.

Never dull: Valerie's House has two full-time people, Melvin and a program director who coordinates the support groups. A typical day starts early with fundraising calls and events, going over financials, meeting with parents and ends with evening support groups, some of which Melvin leads. A certainty of each workday is that will be “pulled in many different ways,” she says. That leaves her in sore need of stress relief, she adds.

Fight club: A few times a week, Melvin typically heads south to Naples at the close of the last group session at Valerie's, usually about 8 p.m. Her destination: Title Boxing Club.

The regimen: The beginning of the end to the stresses of the day starts with a 15-minute warm up with stretching, rope jumping, sprinting and the like. Next, Melvin tapes up her hands and puts on muay thai gloves, which are like boxing gloves but give more flexibility for closing of grips. Next comes the big bag - to which Melvin needs no introduction. She spends the next 32 minutes banging, jabbing and kicking at the bag through eight three-minute rounds with one minute between rounds.

No stop: Melvin doesn't head to a stool for a breather after a bell ends the round. “I'm doing a series of squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups...,” she says.

The thrill is there: Some nights Melvin would rather be anywhere else than in front of the bag. But that mood swiftly changes once the music comes on and the action starts, she says. “A lot of times after I leave [Valerie's House] the stories of the loss will stay with me. A workout on a bag can help me let go of it,” she says.

Beat the bag: For a mental edge, says Melvin, “I will occasionally picture the face of someone I'm not happy with on that bag.”

Why she does it: “It keeps me in shape,” she says. “I feel healthy. I feel like I pushed myself and have accomplished something. All of that has to with confidence.”

Best part: “I prefer the high intensity stuff,” Melvin says. “I want my heart rate through the roof.” The Title Boxing Club and the fitness gym she works out at on alternate nights in Fort Myers are “where I can just focus on doing something good for myself. I let everything else go and be in the moment.”

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