Picture61.jpgKayla could never do anything half-heartedly. She screamed and cheered when her Broncos won, cried when they lost. When she smiled, it was with her whole being. She always preferred text-messaging over talking because she could keep up 15 conversations at a time. Music was also a great talent of Kayla’s. She played clarinet, saxophone, piano, and sang in multiple choirs. Her iPod was filled with music she loved to put her beautiful voice to.

 

Yet Kayla was not your ordinary teenager. She was a beautiful girl in every sense of the word. On the outside she could stop a train with her smile or a sideways glance but on the inside she was far more beautiful than that. She had the looks and personality that she could have easily been one of the “popular” girls in school but she always described herself as "not popular". Kayla shunned the stereotypes of "popular kids" and instead showed everyone else just how nice and how gracious a beautiful girl could be.

 

At her visitation, we were not at all prepared for the reaction of the community. It was there that the magnitude of her impact on other people's lives first hit us. We were absorbed with our intense personal loss and our grief overwhelmed us. Friends had mentioned that the impact of her loss was being felt broadly within our community and that we should expect a crowd that night. We had no idea just what they meant until that night. We found out just how far her reach was that evening. There were literally hundreds of people who waited hours in that long line just to tell us what she had meant to them. We heard stories about her, from those who had come to honor her, that filled our hearts with a bittersweet pride. That pride brought with it a grief so profound and we wept with what seemed to be the whole community that night.

 

The most telling of those encounters came towards the end of the evening. It came from a very tall young man, in a boy scout uniform who waited in line for more than 2 hours to tell us how much it meant to him that she helped him find a book in the library. His mother, who came with him, then leaned over and whispered that he was “different” and that the other kids didn’t like him very much because of it. She said that he was so impressed that someone like Kayla would think nothing of helping him. She wanted us to know how much that simple act had impacted his life and how grateful she was for it. Seeing him standing there and as the story sunk in we found ourselves lacking words to express how grateful we were to them for taking the time to come and tell us that. That story basically summed her up. She didn't care about artificial social boundaries. What she cared about was helping people in need, particularly children or people with special needs. 

 

There were other stories too, from an autistic boy she helped out and sang songs with in their “special” gym class, to the teachers who told us how she got the other reluctant kids to befriend the special needs kids to help them in their classes. There were stories of all sizes and shapes, from the simple “I didn’t know Kayla very well, but she sat by me in English class and when she walked in she always gave me a smile and a hello and it made my day” to “she was an amazing girl and president of our Key Club”, or “she was everyone’s little sister at Panera Bread where she worked and her smile made all of them smile with her”.

 

Even people who had never met us simply needed to tell us a story or two about what they had heard about her. We heard stories of her continuing impact on the kids. Two girls leaving the funeral service the next day were overheard discussing “instead of finding a job what volunteer job could we get this summer?” A boy down the street joined the army as a medic that same week so he could do something to make a difference like Kayla had done. Kids that had strayed into destructive lifestyles somehow found strength and guidance from the way she lived her life and from who she was to them and straightened out their lives crediting her with their rebirth.

 

It is because of her impact on others that we created this site in the hopes that we might somehow continue on what she started.