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Active SWV head named one of Generation Next top 40 Under 40

By SARAH PLUMMER

The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A Fayetteville native with a focus on getting southern West Virginia active has been named one of the 2017 Generation Next 40 Under 40, an annual award recognizing the accomplishments of the state’s young professionals.

Melanie Seiler Hames is executive director of Active Southern West Virginia.

Melanie Seiler Hames is in a position she seems tailor made for. She grew up in a family where outdoor recreation was a lifestyle and a business at Songer Whitewater, and her first paying jobs were as a raft guide and ski instructor when she was 18.

As executive director of Active Southern West Virginia, the 37-year-old works to transform the region into a physically active community by training and connecting residents with opportunities to walk, run, bike, boat, do yoga and a variety of other activities.

“This is not only a recognition for me but the important work of improving the health of southern West Virginia,” she said. “It is very exciting to be surrounded by so many young professionals around the state who are making big impacts. It makes for a bright future for West Virginia.”

At a time when young professionals are often leaving the state due to lack of jobs and a poor quality of life, Hames has stayed in hopes of improving the culture and the community.

“I’ve wanted to stay in this area because of the beautiful landscape and recreational opportunities, and because in southern West Virginia I can be somebody and I can make a difference. I don’t get lost in the crowd,” she explained.

“I was in the tourism industry for 20 years, and I saw thousands of people coming to our area. They would comment on how beautiful it was; However, my peers often felt depressed. That’s why I would like to better connect the residents to the recreational activities, to improve their quality of life,” Hames said.

Hames is certified by the Professional Ski Instructors as a level two Telemark Skiing Instructor and a level three stand up paddleboard instructor by the American Canoe Association.

She has an associate degree in applied science in adventure sports management from Garret College.

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