Making A Difference
By: Dana Tirella
“Live not one’s life as though one had a thousand years, but live each day as the last.” The words of Marcus Aurelius never had much of an impact on me until October 22, 2007, when my life would forever be altered.
The words spiraled through my head. The phone call that came late that night would forever be embedded in my mind and soul. I ran upstairs to hear my mom hysterically crying. She turned to me and dreadfully said, “Your cousin Kayla died.” Her voice was surreal. Time stopped for a moment and a sense of loss, bewilderment, and fear rushed through me. I felt as if my safe little world made up of patterns and routines would now be disrupted.
My cousin Kayla was a kind, smart, respectful 16-year-old who became a victim of a horrific car crash, three houses down from her own. Kayla was not wearing a seatbelt. You often hear about teenagers dying in car accidents, but never do you think that it could happen to you or your family. I began to question if I was living life to the fullest and not taking anything or anyone for granted. My belief system is that with obstacles comes strength. As a result of this obstacle an inner strength emerged from Kayla’s death, and I realized I needed to make adjustments in my life and attempt to make a difference in others.
When I look within myself, I realize how much I’ve grown and changed, not only physically but also mentally. Four years ago my thoughts were racing and without any idea of what to expect, I moved forward. Making a difference in peoples lives is very important to me. Volunteering at hospitals, helping out at food drives, donating blood, and walking for breast cancer, for my mom being a survivor, takes up a good portion of my time. In addition, I’ve spent time raising money for a scholarship in Kayla’s memory by selling key chains, bumper stickers, and t-shirts and being a big advocate on seatbelts. I still wonder if that is enough?I may never know if that is enough but I will always keep trying to make a difference in the lives of the people I love.
Kayla will never know how much of an impact she had on my life. Since her loss I’ve begun to live everyday to the fullest and not dwell on the small things. I treasure every moment I spend with those that I love and take nothing or no one for granted. A simple lunch with my mom is now very important to me. I take the time to show the people I care about that I appreciate them, instead of just telling them. Everyday I strive to inspire others to pay it forward, as that was Kayla’s mission. Kayla’s journey may have abruptly ended, but mine is just beginning.
Kayla's been a busy angel paying it forward!
May 2008 -
The Kayla Marie Joiner Foundation presented 2 scholarships totaling $2250.00 to Alyssa Goleman and Joyce Gayo of the Palmetto Ridge High School senior class of 2008. Alyssa will use her scholarship towards her medical education. Joyce collected the most Teen-Parent Safe Driving contracts and will use her scholarship towards her future education. A third scholarship in the amount of $2000.00 will be presented to Billy Morosco of Wellington High School. Billy was awarded the scholarship for his academic achievements and for submitting an essay which can be read on the home page of this website.
December 2007 -
We delivered a special Christmas on behalf of Kayla. Adopt-A-Family helped select a family in need. Donations made to Kayla's foundation made it possible for Deborah and her daughter Tenay to have a Christmas filled with gifts and the spirit of giving.
November 2007 -
We paid it forward for Kayla! We delivered a full Thanksgiving dinner to a nice family who were in need this year. Hopefully, this gave them peace in knowing that they were able to celebrate the Thanksgiving spirit. We hope that one day, they will be able to pay it forward as well.