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A desperate plea to find my niece

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This is not a wedding blog post, I apologize, although my niece Ana was my junior bridesmaid and one of the people who made my wedding the most beautiful and memorable day of my life.

My niece Ana Carter, who I like to call Ana Banana, ran away from her home in Rockdale on Friday. We believe she has made her way to Joliet and are desperate for her to come home.

She has sent some texts to family and friends that as of yesterday confirms she is OK, but we have not gotten word today and she's still no where to be found.

I ask you to spread this blog in hopes of her reading it and seeing how much we need her, or that whomever may know where she is or who is helping her will please inform us or the police of her whereabouts.

I believe my niece has been feeling left out and maybe "unloved," which is the farthest thing from the truth so I'm hoping this blog will remind her of how important she is to her mother, father, sister, brothers, to me and her Uncle Paul, and her entire family.

As adults, we get so caught up in our every day lives that we sometimes forget to pay attention to those around us and what they need.

Ana is 15 years-old and just started high school. She's always been one of the top students in her class and graduated eighth grade as salutatorian. In all the academics and sports she in involved in, she always strives at it.

As the oldest of four and being so successful, all of the family's worry tends to go to the much younger siblings who are in constant need of the adults in their lives.

Not to mention at 15, it's not like you want much to do with your mother, father, and your old aunts and uncles. Friends, cell phones and you hair tend to be more important in your teenage years.

I've forgetten that feeling every successful teenager gets --the one when you start to feel that because you're too good and too smart you're being ignored from your parents and family members because your success becomes expected.

So Ana, let me tell you now how proud we are of you.

Despite the hardships you have suffered since you were a toddler, you have done nothing but prove to the world that you will not be defeated.

You are never too scared to try anything new. Volleyball, basketball, softball, band - you tried them all. Love it or hate it, you tried it. Diving into new things at your age is remarkable.

We all knew you were smart, but you shocked us all when you were named Salutatorian and given the President's Award for Academic Excellence at graduation. I've never seen your mother cry from pride so hard in her life.

As if getting straight As was not enough, you were a leader in "Rockdale's Walk for Peace" raising hundreds of dollars for those in need. There are not many teenagers who would give up their weekend to raise money for people they don't even know. I was not only proud of what you accomplished, but I was proud to know you t

And your academic success has not halted in high school. I know you're struggling with some issues there, but we just saw your grades and your As in World Affairs Honors, Honors Geometry, Spanish and FACS. When your mother told me this, I could see the pride bursting out of her.

In the last couple of months I've watched you begin to grow into the woman I always knew you would be. You watch over your step-brother Alex as though he was your blood, because now he is your brother and family takes care of each other.

Sometimes family can be hurtful, but in the end the love we all have for each other carries us through Ana, and it will this time too. Come home and let us have the chance to show you that.

And I know you and your little sister Jacey fight like cats and dogs sometimes, but when you two laugh together and take care of your brother Jackson as a team, it melts your mom and dad's hearts and reminds all of us of what true sisters look like.

You are the reason your mother and I are best friends today. It wasn't because I married your mom's brother. In fact, when we started dating in high school your mother hated me. But when I met you when you were four-years-old, you and I became fast buds. Your mother began to love me because you saw the good in me before she did.

Eleven years later at my wedding as I watched you walk up the aisle in front of me, I had a million thoughts going on since I was about to get married, but your beauty and your confidence in front of all those people took my breath away.

You never seize to amaze us, although we have failed recently to tell you and show you that.

We all make mistakes Ana. Please come home so we can all forgive each other and work together to fix the hurt.

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