August 26th 1990 - July 29th 2014
"Girls who behave don't make history..."
A beautiful dancer... A beautiful girl... A beautiful spirit...
Ariana Bedka was born on August 26th 1990 in Virginia. Her parents then moved to the Hudson Valley, where they made a home in Hopewell Junction. Ariana grew up with one younger sister, Alara. As children, they were involved in various activities and hobbies: dance, gymnastics, figure skating, and more. They attended school in Wappingers Central School District, starting at Fishkill Elementary School and ending at John Jay Senior High School. Ariana had a difficult time applying herself to her academics, but she shined in her interests and hobbies. She dedicated herself to her passions and developed her talents, leading to many awards and achievements.
She graduated from high school in 2008 and took classes at Dutchess Community College off and on for several years. As she got older, she moved toward other interests: working with children, photography, and nature. Ariana also got more heavily involved in her social life; her infectious, energetic personality helped her make a lot of friends. She found work at several local daycares in the area, before finding something she truly had passion for, which was physical therapy. She got accepted into the Swedish Institute to study massage therapy in New York City. She planned to get into the field of sports physical therapy, and her ultimate dream was to be the physical therapist for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ariana was getting closer to the end the program, when she got into an accident that totaled her car and left her with post-concussive syndrome. She tried to work through it, but with her headaches, she was not allowed to participate in the physical parts of her classes. Ultimately, it prevented her from completing her schooling. This was heartbreaking for Ariana, and she didn't know what to do next. She got certified in bartending and began working in restaurants including Kobu in Mahopac, Cilantro in Fishkill, and Seasons Restaurant in Fishkill.
Over the course of her life Ariana faced challenges, both mental and physical. From the outside, she grew up in a relatively 'normal' family... but behind closed doors, her home life was significantly impacted by the effects of addiction and family dysfunction. Ariana coped with this often difficult reality the best that she could. Sometimes she acted out, and other times she would escape by pouring herself into her social life or her hobbies. Ariana's devotion to her extracurricular activities and interests was a healthy outlet for her and a way to get positive attention.
Unfortunately, the generational family disease of addiction had its effects on Ariana while growing up. When she finished high school, she stopped being involved so much in her activities, and she lost that positive outlet. Ariana faced struggles with depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior. She had not yet learned how to heal from the environment she grew up in. She still went on living her life, and did the best she could with what she had. She stayed busy hanging out with her friends, taking long drives in her car, and exploring nature.
July 29th 2014 was just like any other day... Ariana wanted to find something to do that would take herself away from her daily problems and anxieties. One of the last things on her phone was a screen shot of local nature spots, including Kaaterskill Falls, a local attraction for hikers in Catskill State Park. She and a friend decided to take the trip up there, trying to seize the day and see something beautiful.
They didn't know what to expect, so Ariana was wearing a sundress and flip flops. They followed a shortcut trail to the top of the falls, and like many others do, they went beyond the designated trail to get up close to the edge of the falls. She snapped a few photos, before they hopped over the stream and went off onto a ledge about 4-5 feet wide that extended alongside of the falls. Although it is not part of the permitted area, that's where you can get one of the best views of the falls. At some point walking along that ledge, she lost her footing, and fell tragically to her death.
Her friends and family have been severely affected by this loss, but her death (along with that of many others who have lost their lives there) has been a catalyst for change at the park. New safety regulations and alterations to the park have allowed for better views and enjoyment of such a beautiful creation of nature, without hikers having to put their lives at risk. Her family has chosen to turn the events of that day into an opportunity to spread a positive message in Ariana's honor. They will continue trying to make a difference and encourage kids to develop their talents and reach their potential.