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Melanie's HOPE honors missing woman with fundraising event

By Laura Reston
Lawrence Pierce
Bobby Tucker and Kaden Foster, both of Dunbar, play lawn games at a fundraiser for Melanie Metheny at Coonskin Park on Saturday.
Lawrence Pierce Debi Daniel, Melanie Metheny's mother, hands a prize to Bobby Tucker at a fundraiser for Metheny on Saturday.
Lawrence Pierce Alex Mobley, 8, or Elkview gets wrapped up by a black rat snake at a fundraiser for Melanie Metheny at Coonskin Park on Saturday.
Lawrence Pierce Michele Mullins, who was Melanie Metheny's best friend, chats with Bobby Tucker at Coonskin Park on Saturday.

CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- Seven years ago, Melanie Metheny dropped her toddlers off at daycare, called a local automobile body shop to confirm an upcoming visit, and vanished without a trace.

Metheny, then only 21 and a Belle resident, has not been seen or heard from since.

On Saturday, her family and friends gathered at Coonskin Park to honor her memory. Braving sweltering temperatures, they ate hot dogs, sang karaoke and even petted snakes as they shared stories about Metheny.

"She was a wonderful person," her mother, Debi Daniel, said. "She would help anybody who needed it."

Daniel especially remembered how her daughter constantly helped animals. Metheny once found a dog that had been stung by hundreds of bees and nursed the dog back to health.

"She just loved animals," Daniel said.

Daniel has founded an organization called Melanie's HOPE -- Help Our Pets Endure -- to continue her daughter's legacy as an animal lover. Daniel plans to donate the proceeds from the event to an organization dedicated to protecting animals.

Michele Mullins also remembers how deeply Metheny cared for animals.

She had seen Metheny the night before she disappeared. They hung out, grilled some food and chatted about enrolling in nursing school while their kids played. 

"She was just typical, fun-loving Melanie," Mullins said.

Today, Mullins remembers her best friend as a great mother and caring young woman who had big dreams for a career as a nurse.

 "I miss her every day," Mullins said. "She was ready for a bright future."

Mullins now maintains a Facebook page to update people and maintain awareness for Metheny. She wants to show people that, "It could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime."

The page could ultimately help find Metheny, Mullins said.

Daniel continues to hold on to hope that someday, someone may find her daughter.

"I pray every day that we find her," Daniel said. "But every year it gets harder."

Mullins also prays for her friend.

"We'll never stop looking for her," Mullins said. "Every family deserves closure, answers."

But neither Mullins nor Daniel has found closure even though seven years have passed since Metheny vanished.

"I don't know if we'll ever find closure," Daniel said.

Madonna Layne, who attended the event Saturday, understands what the women have gone through. She lost her mother 39 years ago and calls the experience "haunting."

Layne now works for the CUE Center -- an organization that continues to search for missing people years after they disappeared.

"I don't believe that I can find my mother, but I can help others," Layne said.

Layne believes that the family and friends who gathered at Coonskin on Saturday should simply continue to hope that Metheny remains alive. "If a family gives up hope, they're lost," Layne said.

Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.

 


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