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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, September 24, 2021

If I Can't Walk I'll Fly

 CAF Giving Wings to Challenged Athletes 

Returned Kayla to her Passion

Kayla is my middle daughter, who has faced challenges that most of us could never imagine. We are so proud of her attitude, commitment to life, her appreciation for all she has and not focusing on what she's lost. She also has an overwhelming gratitude to those who have given her a new opportunity at a life she once loved. She went from being an athlete to being told she would never walk again, after scoliosis surgery. She proved them wrong.... for awhile. It wasn't "if" but "when" she would end up in a wheelchair. Now she is competing and embracing her best self, not being limited by her challenges. She is able to do this because of the Challenged Athletes Foundation

This is Kayla's story so I will let her share it.... 

Hi all, my name is Kayla and I’m a para athlete who has directly benefited from CAF.  When I suffered spinal cord injury in 2005, as a 21 yr old DIV I track and field athlete, my world was changed in an instant. At that time, I had no idea that parasports was a thing, or that there was a way to compete at an elite level.

This was one of the most difficult times of my life, and while in retrospect I’m so grateful for many of the things that have come out of this world shift, in the moment knowing there were groups out there to support athletics for those with disabilities would have been a game changer. 

After 10 years as a high functioning spinal cord injured individual – still on my feet and competing in triathlons, backpacking, surfing, etc. – I was diagnosed with a secondary issue called Syringomyelia. This is a cyst that is on the spinal cord, where spinal fluid accumulates and compresses the cord. My condition is degenerative, and the two spinal cord surgeries since 2016 have not been able to stabilize my condition. Its not MS, but manifests very similarly and that’s the group of people I relate to most regarding symptoms and symptom management. 

When I found myself as a wheelie, a local paratriathlete told me about CAF. A few meetings later and CAF had granted me funds to purchase my own hand cycle and had a racing wheelchair on the way to me.


It is because of CAF I got to compete in my rookie season of the paratriathlon in 2021. I’ll be there racing in October in full support of CAF and their programs.

What I ask of you today...

Please join me in empowering individuals with physical disabilities around the world through sports. The mission of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is intricately tied to the challenges of our time - a global health pandemic, a devastating financial crisis, and ongoing social injustices. These challenges create even greater barriers for individuals with physical disabilities. To change this reality, it will take all of us.

Your donation to my fundraising goal will help provide challenged athletes in financial need with adaptive sports equipment, coaching, and training expenses. Additionally, your gift will support virtual and at-home resources that help challenged athletes of all ages and abilities stay active and motivated, at a time when sports and physical activity are needed more than ever.

Our efforts will help ensure that the most vulnerable population won’t be left behind. We’ll be creating opportunities for challenged athletes to be involved with adaptive sports, fitness, community connections, and inclusion in society’s health and wellness activities.

As a CAF supporter, I believe in the power of sport to empower lives, heal individuals and unite the world, especially in these times of crisis and conflict. My fundraising goal is $10k because that is just under the amount they've donated directly to me for the handcycle and racing chair I'm getting this winter. So I'm very much trying to replenish funds they've given me to date.

Please join me in helping Kayla to change the world. and inspire those who have had their lives altered. They are living their life to the fullest, despite daily pain and limitations. I'm asking for you to please donate to CAF, via Kayla's fundraiser, where all proceeds go directly to CAF. 


I know that these are challenging times for many. If you are facing hardship and can't donate, you can still help by sharing this post on your social media sites and with our friends. We can educate everyone about the wonderful resources available to help our challenged athletes. CAF is doing amazing work by giving a life back to those who may believe theirs was over. 

Thank you! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I'm hoping the story finds her next chapter in the special olympics. The things dreams are made of.

  2. Such a challenging yet inspiring story. Thank you for sharing, Kayla, and best of luck in your competitions—hat's off to you!!

    1. Thank you so much Eric!! We really appreciate your support!

  3. Kayla has so much of your character, she keeps pushing ahead till she reaches to goal she has set to herself.
    You have such an amazing daughter!

    1. Thank you An! One day I hope you will meet her. She keeps reminding me by how she lives her life that there is no time to sit and feel sorry for ourselves, but just live the best life despite what happens.

  4. Kayla,your strength shines through with every word! Thank you.


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