When I was a little girl, I would always ask to get baby clothes whenever we were out shopping. Everyone always assumed it was for my baby doll, but really they were for the baby sister I really wanted to have. I kept a drawer, and saved these clothes for when my best friend and little sister would finally arrive 9 days after my 10th birthday, on June 30, 1998 at 12:34 a.m.

I had the privilege of being Myka’s big sister for almost 19 years. She was such a fun little girl and her smile was endless. She carried this enthusiasm with her as she grew to become an amazing, selfless, caring and compassionate young woman.

One of her greatest passions was volunteering for and working at CARES (Cardinal Autism Resource Services) alongside Natalie Urbas and Marcus Bumgardner, as well as all the other wonderful staff members there. She found such joy in making these special children happy.

Myka got a puzzle piece tattoo on her wrist, and in her words she said: “Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always had a special place for people with autism in my heart. I got this tattoo not only to show awareness, but also to show my never ending love and support for everyone affected by this disability. I can’t wait to graduate from Kent, become an intervention specialist and make changes in people’s lives affected by autism. Different not less. ”

Unfortunately she was not able to complete her degree in Intensive Special Education and Autism Spectrum Disorders, but I know that she would have been an extraordinary teacher. To say how proud I am of her is an understatement. Being her big sister is the greatest honor.

I was also fortunate to have Myka as an amazing aunt to my children. This part is from my 6yr old son, Easton:

“Dear Myka, Thank you for being the best aunt ever! I’ll miss going to the park with you and for ice cream with me and Emma. And our trips to the river to catch salamanders and crayfish. Miss playing with you the most — like when we played ‘poison ivy,’ the game you made up to give us kisses, and we’d pretend to be sleeping. Love, Easton”

Myka was a huge part of my kids’ lives and loved them so much! For that, I am forever grateful.

From the moment we met Kayleigh, she was an immediate part of our family. She was more than just a best friend to Myka, she was another sister. She was always with us and really completed our family.

(And to Lola and Tom, we thank you for bringing Myka into your family as well. Myka loved you both more than you’ll ever know!)

Kayleigh was one of the most hardworking, trustworthy and caring people I’ve ever met. She always had at least 2 jobs and always showed up with presents for the kids on the holidays. Emma’s favorite “Frozen” blanket was given to her by Kayleigh.

When I think of Kayleigh and Myka, I’ll remember the two of them laughing together and just being silly, young and vibrant. We thank you all from the bottom of our broken hearts for the outpouring of love and support during this horrific time.

We love you Myka and Kayleigh! Always! Fly high angels!