It wasn’t too long ago I remember walking through Cambridge, Ontario and noticing green ribbons everywhere. Curious, I began asking questions and were told the ribbons were for Kayla.
Kayla Baker, a student who lived in our neighbourhood and went to school with many of the kids on my street was in a fight for her life and really wanted to bring attention to something that could save her life – organ donation.
Soon I was seeing the ribbons all over town, they were talking about her in the newspaper and on the radio. Her name was everywhere. The entire town threw a “wear green for Kayla” day and it got people talking about organ donation more than they ever had before.
Kayla needed a new set of lungs. Diagnosed at 11 with Pulmonary Fibrosis, the prognosis for Kayla was grim unless she got a new pair. She had already gone through chemotherapy as a baby when she fought off cancer. How was her body going to make it through the wait for the lungs?
From all the interviews in the paper with her friends and family, it became readily apparent that this little girl was special. She knew that her life might be short, but wanted to really bring awareness to organ donation so that other kids may not have to wait quite as long as she was going to.
Kayla’s dream was brought to a head with the organization of a run, something she wanted to do when she got her new lungs. Soon people all over Cambridge were talking about the walk/run for Kayla. Everyone was buzzing with excitement as the race day came. On May 11, 2013, hundreds of people wearing green and white lined up and went off to the races, including my husband James. It was his first 5K race and despite being nervous at the start he knew that he needed to do this for Kayla.
Kayla was on everyone’s mind as they fought to the finish. She couldn’t attend as she was recovering from her transplant. After waiting for over a year Kayla finally had her new set of lungs but was in no shape to attend the race. The event was streamed down to her hospital room and she appeared on event screens via webcam to inspire all the runners. The smile on her face was evident as she thanked everyone for their support and told them how much she looked forward to joining them in a future race.
Some of her dreams have come true.
Her race has become an annual event and racers will take off this morning for the 2nd time. Lots more people have signed up for organ donation and Kayla’s story isn’t very far from everyone’s minds in Cambridge. Unfortunately Kayla will only be able to run in spirit today. She passed away on New Years Day 2014. Her legacy lives on and her focus is on the minds of many as they prepare to line up at the starting line.
Good luck to all the racers today and I look forward to seeing you at the starting line.