March 23, 2011
Kayla McKeon has been in Special Olympics for a decade, and it has helped her build strength, make friends, learn responsibility and develop confidence. Now, Kayla applies these skills in her daily life and in college.
Kayla says Special Olympics has been a big part of her life ever since she first got involved a decade ago.
When Kayla McKeon was about 13 years old, she realized that she couldn’t keep up physically with other kids, although she tried very hard. But then she was introduced to Special Olympics and immediately knew this was the place to be. She began learning different sports and new skills, and started socializing and making new friends. Participating in sports training and competition gave her confidence and a voice to be an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.
Kayla says Special Olympics has been a big part of her life ever since she first got involved a decade ago. Once Kayla started, she wanted to keep pushing ahead, exploring new sports. She has competed in floor hockey, softball, bowling, soccer, track and field, as well as bocce.
Signs of Confidence
Kayla’s mom, Patricia, says her daughter loves the competition – and is absolutely not intimidated. She’s even known for showing off a bit. Kayla is a goalie for her floor hockey team. During one memorable game, Kayla’s mom was amazed to see her daughter’s fiercely competitive spirit, even as the opposing team bore down on her aiming for the goal. The goalie’s show of confidence seemed to work: Kayla’s team had been on a longtime losing streak, but this time, they won the game – and the gold medal.
The McKeon’s keep a busy schedule. Kayla’s parents, Patricia and Mark, have been inspired by their daughter and are now both Special Olympics coaches. In Patricia’s words, “We get more enjoyment out of it, we think, than the athletes.” Kayla is now taking classes at her local community college. With her outgoing personality, Kayla has also excelled as a Global Messenger, serving as a public speaker on behalf of Special Olympics.
A Can-do Spirit
In her motivational public appearances, Kayla draws on her own experiences. As an individual with an intellectual disability, she tells her audiences that a positive attitude can inspire each person to reach their highest potential. She says she’s obsessed with the “can do,” and not the “can’t.”
“All of these public speaking accomplishments are a direct result of Special Olympics,” says Kayla’s mom. “That’s where she did her first speech and found out that she was good at it -- and loved it.”
This summer, Kayla will be building on her achievements when she competes at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. She’s a part of the U.S bocce team.