Now, she is demonstrating that passion through two gifts to her alma mater. The Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Endowment for Recreational Therapy will provide unrestricted support for Clemson’s recreational therapy program, which is part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. When funds are reached to endow that program, a second endowment, the Melinda E. Chappell ’82 Golf Endowment, will be directed to the Clemson Women’s Golf team.
Chappell’s road to creating this endowment was straight and determined. Raised in a die-hard Clemson family in Columbia, Chappell and her four brothers were instilled with a love for athletics from an early age.
But when Chappell was around 9 years old, doctors discovered a bone cyst in her hip that required two surgeries. During her recovery, she quickly found that she enjoyed swimming as a form of physical therapy. That experience and her passion for the Tigers eventually led her to Clemson, where she majored in recreation and parks administration with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Her goal was to work with children and teens challenged with physical disabilities.
While at Clemson, Chappell embraced collegiate life. She was part of a group that started Clemson’s first collegiate golf club.
“The first meeting was composed of men and a handful of women,” said Chappell, “and we played lots of courses throughout the area. It wasn’t competitive, but it was a start.” That small start finally paid off in 2013 when Clemson Women’s Golf team was formed.
Upon graduation, Chappell was able to fulfill her passion by working for a psychiatric hospital as a recreational therapist. She worked with adolescents struggling with various mental and physical issues, using swimming, tennis, bowling and other sports to not only help them restore their self-esteem, but also provide direction in all aspects of their lives.
During her successful career as a recreational therapist, Chappell worked tirelessly with nonprofits. While working at the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Muscular Development Center in Columbia, she helped found Limitless Sports, a nonprofit organization designed to help people with disabilities compete in sports activities. She was instrumental in bringing the late Christopher Reeve to speak at a fundraiser for that organization, an accomplishment of which she is still proud.
Chappell was tapped to be the director of the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center before it was even built — a position she still holds today.
She has continued her philanthropic work in the North Myrtle Beach community she now calls home. She started another nonprofit, Coastal Adaptive Sports, and is involved with Teen Angels, an organization aimed at helping homeless and otherwise struggling teens achieve successful educational experiences through the use of community resources. She is also a founding member of the Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association, a nonprofit hosting regional athletic competition for persons with disabilities.
As an active alumna, Chappell understands and appreciates Clemson’s commitment to adaptive sports. She was instrumental in moving the Southeastern Wheelchair Games to a more central location in order to make it accessible for attendees from places such as Atlanta and Charlotte. Due to her efforts, this year’s 25th annual event was held in Clemson. The Southeastern Regional Wheelchair Games welcomed 15 participants to the Clemson campus, including two students, Marsden Miller and Scarlett Lawhorne. Volunteers included students from Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management program and several Clemson Football players.
Chappell believes there is no limit when it comes to philanthropic endeavors and generosity, a mentality that led her back home to Clemson once again as she began considering ways to leave a legacy that reflected both her passion for helping others through sports and her love of Clemson.