Alumna UKNIGHTS for Orlando’s First Responders

melyssaUniversity of Central Florida biology and psychology alumna Melyssa Allen, ’12, worked with departments and organizations across the university to assemble more than 150 care packages for Orlando’s first responders following the tragedy at Pulse nightclub.

“I was listening to the radio the day after the tragedy at Pulse and heard that there had been an outpouring of donations for the friends and families of the victims, but hadn’t heard much about the first responders being taken care of,” explained Allen.

Through her involvement with UCF RESTORES program, Allen is well aware of the significant impact this type of traumatic event can have on an individual. The program, housed in the UCF Psychology Department, is a clinical research center dedicated to the study of all facets of anxiety, trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) including etiology, psychopathology, treatment, resilience and prevention.

“In the midst of such an event that they [first responders] are never supposed to experience in their careers, I thought having the UCF community reach out and provide whatever little comfort and appreciation we could might help, even in the slightest.”

Sea World, where Allen works as an animal trainer, gave her a work day to reach out to various organizations on campus and post on social media to gather donations.  On Wednesday, June 15,  she set up a station in the atrium of the UCF Psychology building for UCF students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to write thank-you notes and assemble care packages for Orlando’s police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

The UCF Alumni Center, UCF Recreation and Wellness Center, UCF Cares, UCF Admissions, and a graduate of the university donated hundreds of items for the cause. Deborah Beidel, Ph.D., Director of the UCF RESTORES Program, also provided a brochure about the aftermath of trauma to be included in the care packets. The UCF RESTORES program is offering clinical services for all those affected by shooting and enduring the aftermath of trauma. officer

“It was incredible to see how many people stopped by the table I had set up throughout the day, even though I was just an alumni with a poster and some blank thank you cards!” said Allen. “So many people were just looking for more ways to help the community, and it seemed like a lot of them were thankful to help put together one of the care packets or be able to write out a thank you card and express their gratitude for what our first responders were doing for our community.”

Ariel Horner, a former graduate student in the UCF Biology Department with Allen, organized a meet-up with the UCF Biology Graduate Student Association for members to write thank you and encouragement cards to accompany the care packages.

Allen collected more than 75 thank you cards and put together over 150 care packages that she delivered to the Orlando Police Department and Orlando Fire Department headquarters with the help of her parents. She also delivered some of the packets to the Christ Church of Orlando, which stayed open 24 hours for first responders to stop by during their shifts and take what they needed out of the supplies that were donated.

Allen graduated with dual bachelor degrees in both biology and psychology from UCF in 2012 and is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in cognitive sciences. She remains active with UCF  by volunteering on the College of Sciences Alumni Chapter Board and giving back to the community as a shining knight.



Comments are closed.