It is with a heavy heart that I share this post from a friend:
Melissa Ann Riggio, 20-year old daughter of our CEO Steve and his
wife, Laura, and sister to Laura and Christina. Melissa passed away
peacefully this morning, Monday, April 7, at 6:00 a.m. at University
Hospital of Columbia and Cornell in Manhattan. She was surrounded by
her parents, sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins. There will be a
funeral service on Friday in New Jersey. Details will be forthcoming.
As so many of you know, Melissa was diagnosed with leukemia last
summer and since that time she fought long and hard to overcome the
disease. Last June, she graduated from Bernards High School in
Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she was crowned Prom Queen. Melissa
was so grateful to the many people who reached out to offer their
support by donating blood, platelets, and sending cards and letters.
Through it all, Melissa remained strong and optimistic. She was an
inspiration to everyone who had the opportunity to know her.
Although Melissa was born with Down Syndrome, she lived a full and
extraordinary life. Melissa worked at the YMCA in Bernardsville and
recently talked about entering a post secondary program so that she
could become a counselor at the YMCA. She loved to read and listen to
music, and she loved to write. Melissa was a poet and songwriter.
Melissa was taking voice, drama, and dance lessons as she also
aspired to become a singer one day. Some of Melissa's songs were
recorded by singer/songwriter, Rachel Fuller.
In her song entitled, "The Ring," Melissa expresses her thoughts on
being a woman and her purpose:
I'm in the Ring outside
I'm following my belief
I'm looking at the sky
I saw God following my heart
I'm an ordinary woman
The Ring is falling down my way
The wind is blowing me away
The Ring is falling down,
Down my way
The wind is blowing me away
And so I came back to
The center of the Ring
Am I just a broken angel?
God has sent me here to heal
To be an ordinary woman.
Love is a Potion
Love is everything
Love is all around
Love is not hopeless
Love is passion
Love will not stop
Love is an ocean
Here is a wonderful article about Melissa and her father Steve that I had posted last year.
Message Born of Hope and Dreams
and a link to her song with Rachel Fuller
Emma Sage and I got to meet Melissa last year, and my heart, mind and soul can not fathom the pain her family and friends are feeling....I know that those of us in the Trisomy 21 Community will feel her loss.....as she was an amazing gift of a human being and an incredible advocate for all people with Down syndrome.
Melissa loved the YMCA [as does my Emma Sage] and tonight we have our swimming class at the Hunterdon County YMCA.......not too far from the Y that Melissa loved to attend.
All of our loving thoughts and prayers to the Riggio's and everyone whose life Melissa touched and enriched in her short 20 years.
Rest in Peace Melissa......Rest in Peace
Here is a beautiful piece on Melissa's life that was written by Pamela Wilson, one of the greatest 'Mother' voices out there writing about life with a child with special needs:
Melissa Riggio Made a Difference