|Alma mater||American University
University of Denver Law School
|Spouse(s)||Walter J. Kappeler, Jr.|
|Children||Walter J. Kappeler, III|
Melissa Helmbrecht (c. 1975) is an American advocate for young people known for her involvement in the youth service movement. Her work has been featured in Parade Magazine, the Denver Post, Washington Times, CNN, Good Morning America, the Indianapolis Star and the Orlando Sentinel, and on ABC's The View.
Helmbrecht was appointed the youngest member of the Orlando, Florida Leadership Council in 1991. In this position she promoted youth service around the city. She also participated in a design council for the Disney model town of Celebration, Florida. In the 1990s Helmbrecht co-founded Camden's Promise School in Camden, New Jersey.
While a student at the University of Denver Law School, Helmbrecht served as the 15th Circuit Governor for the American Bar Association Law Student Division and on the ABA Committee for the Unmet Legal Needs of Children. In 2000 Helmbrecht was a speaker at the National Association of Independent Schools conference. She studied at the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, serving as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children in court. As the president of the Children's Millennium Movement Helmbrecht was cited by the American Bar Association in 2001 for her work addressing the needs of foster children.
Helmbrecht founded an organization called the Youth Investment Project with a grant from Youth Service America, and was acknowledged by that organization as one of the "six most promising social entrepreneurs in America." The project was an intensive mentoring program for middle school students in Denver, Colorado to encourage their participation in peer mediation and conflict resolution activities. The youth involvement project included a "Day of Hope" on the first anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that featured two surviving students.
At the age of 25 Helmbrecht founded Champions of Hope. That organization, along with Youth Service America, sponsored the United Day of Service, which was designed to promote youth-led service learning projects across the country. Activities were sponsored by the Verizon Foundation. Helmbrecht was responsible for securing the participation of Kelly Clarkson in the first celebration of the United Day of Service on September 11, 2002 at the National Mall, along with actor Sean Astin and former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford. That year she served on the White House's "Youth Service Compact," a committee of the top non-profit groups in the country that convened at the White House to design a strategy to increase the impact of youth service organizations.
Helmbrecht ran for U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia's Eighth Congressional District in 2003. She ran as a Republican and was one of the youngest women to ever run for Congress. Lisa Marie Cheney secured the nomination at the district Republican convention.
In 2008 Helmbrecht served on the Global Ambassadors committee of Airline Ambassadors, a project organized by travel commentator Peter Greenberg, the travel editor of NBC's Today Show. She also signed the Youth Entitlements Summit Declaration in June, 2008.
Helmbrecht is the founder and CEO of Splashlife.com. Launching in September 2010, Splashlife is devoted to empowering youth by working with nonprofit and corporate partners to enable its members to take action for social change. On March 19, 2009 Whoopi Goldberg mentioned Splashlife on The View, a television show on ABC. Splashlife's first campaign is called "Hunger and Homelessness in America," and is based on Helmbrecht's personal experience volunteering at a homeless shelter as a youth. Partnering with Peter Samuelson's EDAR (Everyone Deserves a Roof), Splashlife is sharing the organization as a "brilliant example of one way to design simple temporary solutions for complex issues."
Awards and recognition
Helmbrecht has been the recipient of several awards, including the White House Building Healthy Communities and Healthy Youth Award, the CBS Everyday Hero Award, the Walt Disney World Dreamers and Doers Award, and the National Caring Award. She was also inducted into the Frederick Douglas Museum and Hall of Fame for Caring Americans and was named "One of the Six Leading Social Entrepreneurs in America" by Youth Service America.
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- September 2, 2002. "American Idol Winner to Sing National Anthem for 9/11 Memorial Service in D.C.", Champions of Hope. Retrieved 3/20/09.
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- Palmer, Barbara; Dennis Michael Simon (2008). Breaking the political glass ceiling: women and congressional elections (2nd ed.). Routledge. pp. 44, 53. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
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- "Youth Entitlement Summit Declaration". Retrieved 3/20/09.
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- Dunn, A. "Splashlife CEO Discusses Coping with Adversity through National Service". Takepart.com. Retrieved 3/21/09.
- "Hall of Fame", Frederick Douglass Museum. Retrieved 3/20/09.