“Look what Melissa is doing!”
My 21-year-old daughter was looking through her Facebook feed the other day. She wanted to show me how her childhood babysitter has begun shopping for people in our town who are unable to get out themselves.
I smiled when I saw this and said to her, “She was always such a great influence on you and your sister.”
Influencer – a person that influences another. An “influencer” is now also defined as a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
In my own humble opinion, it is people like Melissa Eisen who are the real influencers.
Our family met Melissa back when she was only 14 years old and we hired her to babysit our then very young daughters.
I knew, even back then, how lucky we were. I saw right away the values Melissa had, which I am sure came from her parents. She was fortunate enough to grow up with every opportunity in the world. Even so, she spent her teenage Saturday nights sitting on my couch with my daughters to earn her own money so she could buy the things that she wanted.
While she spent those nights with my girls, she helped guide them through those preteen years. She even told them her own stories of how she dealt with “mean girls” in middle school.
When my daughter turned 14, I was so proud when she followed in Melissa’s footsteps and got her own steady babysitting job. Not only did she earn her own money, she adored the little girls that she babysat for, and I hope she was also a positive influence on them.
As we got to know Melissa through the years, we learned about the charitable causes that were near and dear to her.
Early on, she became involved in animal rescue. She has always felt that animals, especially dogs and cats, are the greatest gift to human beings. She has made it her mission to educate friends and family on the #AdoptDontShop mission and has done whatever she was able to support our local animal shelter.
When Melissa was still a teenager, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. In true Melissa fashion, she got involved with Cycle for Survival when her mom was in remission. Cycle for Survival is an indoor cycling event that raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering; 100% of every dollar funds rare cancer research.
Two years ago, Melissa’s mom’s cancer came back, and this time it is stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
Her cancer is not curable, but it is treatable and she is living her best life today. She has an amazing team of doctors, both at Sloan Kettering and at St. Barnabas in Livingston, NJ and her treatment is working. Melissa and her family are taking one day at a time and, not surprisingly, stopping to smell the roses whenever they can.
This has pushed Melissa to give even more effort to Cycle for Survival so that they will put money and resources in the hands of people who WILL one day cure cancer. Her team, Team Spin Hope and Cure, has raised over $200,000 to date – and Melissa is now Team Captain.
With all that is going on in Melissa’s life, her charitable causes, plus a full-time job in digital ad sales, she has now taken on a new cause. This real influencer recently became involved in a local group called Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many people in our community vulnerable so she raised $1400 in 24 hours, bought a ton of groceries, and hand delivered them to families in town. She is planning on continuing this as long as needed.
On a personal note, my husband passed away eight years ago, right after Melissa left for her freshman year of college. I still have the beautiful note that this then only 18 year-old girl sent to my daughters and I. When we speak to Melissa, we love how she shares her stories of the things she and my husband spoke about when he would to pick her up to babysit.
As my own daughters have grown, Melissa has been the kind of person I hope has influenced them. She is sweet, kind, always positive, truly cares about others, and is always ready to help. This young woman has amazed me through the years and my girls and I are lucky to have had her in our lives.
She, and others like her, are the true and real influencers.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.