By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Amanda Deforest, 25, and her sister Nicole, 23, grew up playing with dolls, baking with their mother, and listening to music together. And, while their relationship was typical in many ways, it was also unconventional – Nicole has autism. But it would take a painful life experience to show Amanda the true depth of their bond.
Nicole attended special needs programs her whole life through both the public schools and the state. Amanda often volunteered in the school programs that Nicole was in, wanting to protect her and keep a watchful eye. She was, after all, her only sibling and she felt a sense of responsibility.
After graduating from high school in 2007, Amanda began working at New Life Health and Fitness as a fitness instructor. She is currently studying personal training in Portuguese and French. Nicole has completed her public school education and will begin another program through the state. She works part-time at Kennedy's Restaurant. Nicole's love for people and her incredible memory, said her sister, make her a valued and popular employee.
Life took a dramatic turn for Amanda a year and a half ago when she was diagnosed with major depression – at one point spending more than 30 hours in bed.
“I felt there was no reason for someone like me to get up,” Amanda said. “I hated myself. Depression overcame me and it was all I could do to combat the negative feelings in my own head.”
While Amanda struggled with depression, Nicole sent frequent texts of encouragement. For Amanda, the heartfelt sentiments were not lost in the darkness.
“Nicole's sweet texts were such a simple thing, but they helped much more then she could have realized,” Amanda said. “Eventually I got the pieces of my life back together, but I don's think I could have done it without Nicole. She is the sweetest.”
Even though Amanda and Nicole do not share a traditional relationship, it is one of shared admiration.
“Nicole truly is an inspiration to me,” Amanda noted. “She has given me an appreciation for life and taught me not to take anything for granted. It is through Nicole's example that I have learned to see the beauty in simple things.”
As a way to honor her sister and help raise money for Autism Speaks, Amanda will be running a dance-a-thon at New Life Health and Fitness located in the Courtyard by Marriott, 75 Felton St., Marlborough. The event will take place Sunday, May 4, from 2 to 6 p.m., with registration from 1 to 2 p.m. Registration is free.
The dance-a-thon will be a sponsorship event. There will be refreshments for sale as well as an hourly raffle. All proceeds will go to Autism Speaks.