Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Journey

If only everyday could be as rewarding as today. 
Today we made a difference…we made a difference in the lives of people, like Kayla, with intellectual disabilities.

High school students from across the state of Delaware came together today to attend the Special Olympics Project Unify Leadership Conference.  These students came to learn how they can make a difference…and learn they did.

Sara Wolff, a young woman with Down syndrome, was the keynote speaker. 
Sara spoke eloquently about her life, her abilities and the hurtful use of the R-word.  With every word she spoke, I couldn’t help but think that one day…one day that could be Kayla…standing in front of an entire room of attentive ears, pouring out her heart and soul about her desire to belong…her desire to be loved…her desire to be treated the same…one day that could be my Kayla asking people and encouraging people to extend a hand of friendship to someone that may seem “different”.  I held it together pretty well.  I hugged my girl tight, holding onto this precious time…grasping onto it with my entire being…knowing that one day…one day she won’t be this adorable little four-year-old that everyone wants to hug and twirl and love.  One day, Kayla will be just like Sara Wolff, an adult with Down syndrome.  But her presentation, her words…while they touched me…I tried hard not to let them get me…I fought through it…I held back the tears {barely}…until her slideshow.  The Climb by Miley Cirus began to play and I began to cry.  Tears fell down my face, sliding slowly down my cheeks and into Kayla’s hair while I held her tight in my lap.  Pictures flashed on the screen and words poured from the speakers…words that bore holes into my sole “there’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move, always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose”…There were pictures…pictures of Sara flashing as an adorable little baby…and I saw Kayla’s face…pictures of Sara as a cute little toddler…and I saw Kayla’s face…pictures of Sara as a little girl…and I saw Kayla’s face…pictures of Sara as an adult…and I saw Kayla’s face.  I saw Kayla and I cried.  I cried for the known…I cried for the unknown…I cried with pride and I cried with fear…and I cried.  But I wasn’t crying because Kayla has Down syndrome because I believe Kayla was blessed with that extra magical chromosome for a reason…for many reasons…she will change minds…she will change perceptions…and she will change the world for the better…just one little smile and one little extra chromosome at a time…I cried because I don’t know how ready I am for the journey…because Kayla…well, she’s ready.  She captivates.  She loves.  She moves mountains without ever saying a word.  And this journey is one that I am so proud to share with her.  I am so proud to be her Mommy.  While I don’t know the destination of this magical ride that we are on, this is Kayla’s journey and I know that Kayla’s journey, our journey, will be amazing.

And then there was the fashion show…and these teens and young adults…they strutted their stuff. 
The confidence, the cheers, the love…if only it could have been bottled and sold…it was priceless.  And Kayla?  Well she took it all in from Daddy’s shoulders and I was yet again moved to tears.

At the end of the day, the room was filled with open minds and hearts as Kayla and I took the stage.  We were asked to close the conference with a five-minute speech…a speech urging the students to spread the word to end the word {the R-word}…to make a difference for Kayla.  We took the stage {to many ooohs and aaaahs…for Kayla, of course} and Kayla was eager and excited to greet the room with a cheerful “Hi everybody…I’m Kayla” {as loud as she could into the microphone}…but the look of joy when the entire room replied “Hi Kayla”…I’ll never forget that look of joy…that joy, that face, that girl…love.
My girl soaked up the attention as I began to speak with my inspiration; my girl, by my side.  The speech, while just 5 minutes in length, will hopefully carry impact throughout the lives of everyone in the audience...and even more...the lives that each of those students will touch.  The spread the message, spread the word that Kayla and all of her friends just like her are more alike than different.  And as I spoke, I could feel those listening getting it.  I saw some tears and I saw understanding in the eyes of many...and my words filled the room...Can you imagine pointing to the person next to you saying “you are such a n-word” or “he is such a n-word”…chances are you’d be told that your words are completely inappropriate.  Then why is it ok to say, “he’s retarded”, “she’s retarded”, “you’re retarded” or “that’s retarded”?  The answer…it’s not.  It’s not ok to use the R-word. After urging everyone to spread the word to end the word, I concluded with…Just think of the impact it could have on Kayla’s future…each one of you have the ability to make a difference…a difference for a positive change for our society…Kayla is too young to understand the meaning of the R-word...but imagine if the R-word wasn’t used like it is today when Kayla is old enough to understand what it means.  You have the power to make a difference…will you?

Will you make a difference?  For Kayla?  I know that my friends won’t use the R-word…but will you ask your friends not to use it?  Ask your family, teammates, and co-workers not to use it…Spread The Word To End The Word, for Kayla.

Together we can make a difference.  We can change the world.  Make a positive impact for all individuals with intellectual disabilities, like Kayla.  If you would like to start making a difference today, sign the pledge on

What makes this day even better?  Even more perfect?  The love people shared with me for my girl….the “she’s the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen” and the {several} “can she be my Blue Gold buddy?”…“Can you both come speak at my school?”…and the most special…“I would love it if you would allow Kayla to escort me during the evening gown portion of the Miss Delaware pageant in June”.  There are no words…only tears…tears of joy and pride.  My girl is making my life, my journey so extraordinary.  With every person she meets, every life that she touches, she spreads magic…the magic I believe that was delivered in her one extra special chromosome.

This is my journey…my perfectly wonderful journey.  
I hope you are enjoying your journey, friends.


  1. It was an amazing day that I will always remember. I am so proud of my wife & daughter.

  2. Hi Amy. Every feeling and thought you have shared here about the Journey, the known and the unknown...I have been overwhelmed with it this past week. It is nice to know I am not alone, but sad to know anyone should have to feel this way. She is beautiful and I am so proud of her also.
    Blessings to you, Traci

  3. First of all, that picture of Kayla on the header is GORGEOUS. And the one of her with Rick? Seriously. (And Rick looks SO proud). Amy, you guys are amazing. I am so happy you had this opportunity and had chills reading it. xoxo