‘I was able to do it all’: Man honored for service to community with grant bearing his name

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To know Keith Melaragno is to know a man who has dedicated his life to service.

At 62, Melaragno has made it his mission to help others by serving on many charity boards. Melaragno, a vice president at Pepsi, says he has always wanted to give back.

“I’m thrilled to be able to do the little I did,” Melaragno said.

Eighteen years ago is when what is now known as the ‘PepsiCo Showdown’ series began. At the time, Melaragno was asked if Pepsi could donate.

“It’s escalated to what’s now the single largest high school soccer tournament in the world, at least in the United States,” Melaragno said.

Locals have seen how those student-athletes have given back to the community through giveaways and surprises.

“Keith has always been willing to do whatever it took to help student-athletes, families, and countless charities and causes,” said Joe Trost of Buddy’s Helpers.

It’s why a $10,000 grant bearing Melaragno’s name will be awarded every year on his birthday to a student-athlete for their community contributions.

“It’s not based on grades. It’s based on one question,” Trost said. “Tell us how you’ve impacted the lives of those you’ve never met.”

The announcement is timely. Melaragno has dealt with his mother’s loss last April and suffered a mild heart attack. The events made him think about his future.

“They say you’re not supposed to make these kinds of monumental decisions after you have a death in the family or a life-changing event, but it’s time,” he said. “It’s time for me to go do something else.”

Set to retire from Pepsi after 35 years, Melaragno says he has no regrets.

“I was able to do it all,” he said. “My faith was a big part of it. My parents were a huge part of it all. My mom and dad believed in me. My friends and family believed in me. They say it takes a village and take advantage of that village because they will impact your life and get you to where you want to be.”

Which makes the grant, dubbed the “Keith Award” even more gratifying.

“You’re an incredible man and I can’t thank you enough for your unwavering belief in what we do, so congratulations,” said Nicole Powell, a PepsiCo Showdown alumna. “I really look forward to celebrating you for many years to come.”

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