A rock star visited the B-TEC on Monday and her adoring crowd could not have been more impressed.
Bonner Springs resident Melba Mills, who graduated from BSHS in 1937, was invited to the B-TEC by business teacher Adrianne DeLeon’s fifth-hour leadership class. Mills, who is 100 years old, became one of Bonner’s most known residents after she was featured in an NFL-produced video entitled “Cheers to 100.” The video, which has had 1 million views since the Chiefs posted it at the end of October, highlighted Melba’s love for the Kansas City Chiefs and her favorite player, quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
DeLeon saw the video on social media and shared it with her fifth-hour leadership class the next day as an example of a positive role model within the community.
“She [Melba] represented our town so positively and that’s what we’re trying to emulate in this class,” DeLeon said.
Like most who saw the video, DeLeon’s students were touched by Melba’s spunky personality and sweet story and they all wanted to meet her.
“Since she lived just a few blocks from the school, they wanted to know if they could go to her house,” DeLeon said. “I told them that wouldn’t work, so we pursued other options.”
BSHS bookkeeper Renee Stanley was a family friend of Melba’s and she helped the class to get in touch with Melba to arrange a potential meeting. DeLeon said the plans evolved from there and when the students learned that Melba would be turning 101 on Dec. 7, they decided to make the meet-and-greet event a birthday celebration as well.
Dawn Sommers’ Culinary Arts students volunteered to bake and decorate two chocolate cakes, one for Melba to share with the students at her party and one for her to take home, and the leadership students created a care package, which contained letters from each student in the class, school newspapers and Braves gear.
Accompanied by her daughter, Mary Mitchell, and her son, Monte Mitchell, Melba was greeted with smiles and cheers as she entered the B-TEC commons at the start of fifth hour.
With all eyes on her, Melba shared it was like to grow up during the Great Depression and what high school like was like in 1937. She said there were no official school dances at that time, but that students would go to Lakewood Park and dance. She was a member of the honor society and the cheerleading squad and even shared one of her favorite old cheers.
After that, Melba answered questions about her Chiefs’ experience and shared highlights from her two-day visit to the stadium.
“I will never forget the players coming out of the locker room. We were on the field and every player, without being told, came out and shook my hand. Then we waited a little longer and Patrick Mahomes eventually came out and shook my hand and gave me a football that he had signed,” Mills said. “And let me just tell you, he is much cuter in person.”
Mary Mitchell said her mom has been treated like a celebrity since the video came out.
“People have called her and asked for autographs, and at one point, she [Melba] joked that she was going to start charging for them,” Mary said. “People also mentioned how much they cried after they watched the video.”
So how did the NFL stumble across Melba’s story?
Monte Mitchell said they were dining at a restaurant several months ago and were surprised when Melba said the waiter resembled Patrick Mahomes.
“We were in shock and wondering how she knew who he [Mahomes] was and then she told us that she had been following him since he was drafted,” Monte said.
Monte decided to contact the Chiefs to see if they might get a Mahomes autographed accessory for Melba. He was told that he would have to submit a letter, so he did just that.
“Not too long after I mailed the letter out, I received a phone call from the Chiefs and they told me that since the NFL was 100 years old this year that they were looking for a fan who was 100 years old,” Monte said. “I was curious as to why they wouldn’t want to feature a regular ticket holder since my mom had never been to any professional game ever, but they really enjoyed her story and decided to have her at the home opener. They really wanted to tell her story.”
A few days before the game, film crews from Los Angeles and St. Louis spent one whole day with Melba in Bonner Springs shooting footage for the NFL video. Melba then spent two days at the stadium, one to tour it and one to watch the Sept. 22 opener against the Baltimore Ravens from the field.
“It was an amazing experience and my mom had an amazing time,” Monte said.
As the hour came to an end, Melba was surrounded by students eager to have their pictures taken with her.
“It was so cool hearing about Melba’s personal experience in high school and to hear how different it was,” senior Britney Sanchez said. “It was such an honor to have Melba here.”