Valley girl gets chance of a lifetime to ride in the Popemobile with Pope Francis

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- One can say it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, as a Valley girl not only got the chance to meet the Pope, but also rode in the Popemobile.

"I was excited, nervous and shocked and scared," said Melanie Mlecko. While vacationing in Rome, Italy, the Mlecko family arranged to attend a weekly gathering held in Vatican City. It would be an opportunity to see and listen to Pope Francis. <elanie and her brother, Tyler, made their way to the front to get a good view.

"I saw a little opening, and I told my son Tyler," said Tammy Mlecko, Melanie and Tyler's mother. "I said, 'hey. Stand up front so you get a better view. Go get Melanie'."

Tammy was sitting several rows behind when the Popemobile pulled up, and never in a million years would she ever imagine what would happen next.

"I stood on a chair to see him, and he stopped about in front of us," Tammy recounted. "I looked at my husband and I'm like, 'what is she doing up there? I don't know.'"

Melanie was selected to meet the Pope.

"I came up the steps thinking, 'oh, he was just going to say hello to us,'" Melanie recounted. "Then he blessed me."

"I thought there was no way she could've gotten picked," said Tammy.

What came next was a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride around with the Pope.

"I didn't really know what was going on when I sat down in the Popemobile and when it started driving off," said Melanie. "There's no way I'm getting back to my family."

After 20 minute ride, Melanie was returned to her family, and sealed with a final blessing. For the Mlecko family, it was an experience to never forget.

"Oh my gosh. That just doesn't happen to any little -- I'm like, you're a very special little girl!" said Tammy.

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