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Mom's Breast Cancer Battle Inspires Kids to Start Project

Project Irreplaceable, led by an Upper St. Clair senior, has students urge their mothers to schedule a mammogram and perform a self exam.

The Mellick family, of Upper St. Clair, knows the importance of breast cancer awareness. They watched their mother, Cathy, recently beat the disease after a multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.

However, the Mellick children—Michele, Ricky and Christine—are taking breast cancer awareness a step further. Instead of just awareness, the kids are promoting early breast cancer detection.

The idea began as Ricky, an freshman, was watching the Pittsburgh Steelers game. The players were wearing pink to raise breast cancer awareness.

"He said 'Hey, I wish we could do something like that,'" said Michele, an Upper St. Clair High School senior.

Soon after, the Mellick family created Project Irreplaceable. Kids are asked to fill out a letter template to their mom. They must tell their mothers why they are irreplaceable and go on to ask them that they perform a self exam and schedule their annual mammogram.

"It kind of plays on the guilt factor and it makes moms realize it's also for the kids," Michele said.

Michele said she wants everyone to know the importance of early detection because it saved her own mother's life.

"All that fundraising for research is wonderful, but it can't help people who haven't been diagnosed," she said.

With help from her dad, Rick, and her high school principal, Dr. Michael Ghilani, word of the project is spreading.

"There are no barriers on how far this project can reach...I emailed every principal in western Pennsylvania," Dr. Ghilani said. "A lot of principals thought it was a great idea. They're really busy this time of year, so it speaks volumes."

Dr. Ghilani said just meeting with Michele and her dad made him want to call his mother and wife.

"I asked them the last time they had exams done," he said.

Some of the participating high schools include Upper St. Clair, Hampton, , Serra Catholic, Plum and Greensburg-Salem.

Middle schools are also starting to gain interest. Michele plans to meet with the soon.

"No matter what age a student is, everyone needs their mom, whether they want to admit it or not," Michele said. "Show how much you love your mom and ask her to do a favor for you."

If you would like to get involved, email the Mellick family at projectirreplaceable@comcast.net.

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