in touch
Melissa Peda 
Sheena and MelissaIf I were to name one person who has inspired me more than anyone in this world it would definitely have to be my sister Sheena. My guide and my inspiration. Sheena was born with Down Syndrome and my parents explained to me that she was different from other children. But to me, there was nothing different about her except the fact that she was the cutest thing I'd ever seen! She taught me more than I have ever learned within my 20 years of education. She taught me about love and tolerance. She taught me about accepting something that is different from what I am used to. She taught me about angels. I would not be who I am today without her. Sheena has given me something I could never return. The true meaning of love. The meaning of learning how to let go and live life to the fullest. And most importantly how to love unconditionally, asking nothing in return.

When I was younger, I grew up in a school where I watched many of the children make fun of those that were different from them. It scared me. I was fearful for my sister and what she would have to go through as she grew up. I did not want her to face the ridicule that I'd seen so many others face. I wanted so badly for her to be accepted, and it made me sick that she could possibly hurt like these other children were surely hurting.

But something crazy happened as we both grew up. The schools had begun to educate students about acceptance. As Sheena entered Junior High I noticed that not only did the children accept her, but also they wanted her to be a part of their life! It was the most amazing feeling ever! I felt so proud. But still, I was fearful for when she entered High School. I couldn't believe that in High School students would still be as accepting. But I was completely wrong. She went to the same high school that I attended six years earlier and, to my surprise, everybody, and I mean everybody, knew who Sheena Peda was! And in a good way! I was so elated!
Then I learned of a program which her High School supported called Best Buddies. I was anxious to learn more about this program so I asked about it. Best Buddies is a program that integrates the "regular" students of the school with those who are physically or mentally less-abled or learning impaired. Each teaches the other something important about life. Instead of being seen as different within the community, they show everyone that they have just as much to offer, if not more, than people thought. Sheena and Best Buddies Founder
Sheena (lower right)
with Best Buddies founder
Anthony Kennedy Shriver
Sheena and Friend at Christmas Dance

Best Buddies is a non-profit organization devoted to helping enhance lives. I have seen such an incredible difference in my sister's life because of the program. She has become more independent and is making her mark in society. She participates in wonderful programs and is learning along the way. I am so incredibly proud and grateful to this program for the incredible work that they have done. They have not only made a difference in my sister's life, but they have made a difference in mine and I will forever be grateful to them.

For more information, visit their web site at
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