About KaylaAs a motivational speaker with Down Syndrome, Kayla McKeon draws on her experiences as an individual with a disability whose positive attitude inspires others to reach their highest potential.
Calendar of Blog Posts
I am so excited, the other day I got to drive on my own. Mom said if you want to drive around the block go ahead, before she got out of the car she showed me where the cars are and to be careful. She. got out and I went around the block and back home. My dad and mom were outside waiting for me to park the car. My mom was video taping and taking pictures. It was way sweet and loving it. My parents were nervous while I was driving, not me, I was way to excited and pumped.
On Friday the 17th later in the afternoon I had a meeting to talk to Senator DeFrancisco about the ABLE act in New York State. I thanked him for doing his part in the legislature because it was unanimously passed and needs to be signed by the Governor. I asked him for his help in getting the Governor to sign it. We need the ABLE act in our state now!! The Senator was meeting with the Governor that night and was going to bring it to his attention. He told me he would let me know when it went to the Governor for signature; he has ten days to sign it from that day.
Friday the 17th I was a volunteer at Dunkin Donuts for Cops on Top, raising money for Special Olympics It started at 7 in the morning but I got there around 8 stayed until 11. We made about 700 dollars in total. It works when people give change or anything. It was really much appreciated. I love Special Olympics and was glad we raised that much. I was tired by the end of it because I do run up to all the cars but it was well worth it. From there I left to go to work at Gigi’s.
Thursday the 16th of July, my friend Gerry from church called me to set a date for her husband Jack, also my friend, to take me out on his motorcycle. It was a great ride; we went all the way to Weedsport, stopped for a bite to eat and came back the same route. It took a couple of hours, when we got back into Liverpool we stopped in front of the hotel and checked out the hot rods the Nationals were in town and there were tons of cars there. We hung out with Jack and his friends. It was awesome night and I might get another ride sometime this summer yay!
I was asked to speak as the keynote speaker at ARISE’s yearly conference on June 26th, it took place in Auburn, NY. It was an awesome event. My cousin Tom McKeown is the Executive Director for Arise. I was asked to speak at this event before they knew we were related, you see he has gone back to the original spelling of my family’s name so he spells it with a W. When he found out, he asked if he could introduce me. He did such a great job, he’s pretty humorous. He told about how after we are all (our family) dead and gone it will be my name that people will remember. He did ask me if I was nervous about speaking and I told him that I was not, but he was. I always feel very important and very confident when I speak. I did finally get to add in to my speech that I have my driver license. I showed my video and took questions, not a lot of questions. A person there did ask me to be on a committee but I have not heard from her as of yet. A photographer was there taking pics. He did a really good job. After I finished I spoke to some people for a bit.
My mom took me for a celebration pedicure.I love spending mother daughter time at the spa. I had tons of fun. It was a wonderful day. I had a huge blast.
I spoke at a retirement party for our Pastor at our church on June 4th and gave him one of my Special Olympic gold medals. I received a standing ovation, I will really miss him, he is great and helped me out a lot. It was a very nice get together.
Last weekend me and my mom went to Brockport College to compete in Special Olympics track and field. Friday was opening ceremonies and dinner. Saturday was an early start, breakfast then we headed down to our venue. My Dad came to cheer for me on Saturday.I had 3 events to compete in. First we qualified, I ran 50 meters did the softball throw and the standing long jump. That was done in the sand and that was new to all of us. We had never done that before. Afterwards we went to the Olympic village, I bought a bracelet, St Christopher to help me with my driving and I started Father’s Day shopping. After that was our actual competition. I ran again for a medal this time. I came in third place; right after I did the long jump and I got the second place medal. I was feeling pretty good and at this point tired as well. I did the softball throw as my last event and came in first place. Yay! When just about all of us were done we headed to the dorms for naps and showers. The relay was going on but most of us wanted to go back and sleep.Then we had dinner then the closing ceremonies and victory dance. We got a couple of team pictures in there too. After the dance we were pretty elated, we went back and had snacks at the dorms, a mini party. Then it was off to bed with us, up early to breakfast. We always get almost everything packed before the party the night before so we are ready in the morning. We all went home and I know I took a nap.
An awesome thing happened; here in Syracuse one of the weathermen at one of the television stations has a Wayne’s tailgate party contest. They bring a tailgate party to you for about 25 people. I entered it by writing an essay about Gigi’s Playhouse, I wrote about what we are and what we stand for. Wayne read it and I won. So cool, we had it June 18th and were on TV. It was the first party of the summer; they had raffles, food and a great time. I had a blast it was way sweet. Wayne gave me a lot of kudos for winning it for all of us!
That same night was also Special Olympic event at Applebee’s; it was Applebee’s Law and Order night. I got to help waiters, waitresses and the police, serve, clean and everything. The Police always help us with fundraisers for the Olympics. They get a lot of money donated so that we can go on the trips across the state and get uniforms and such. It was kind if a long day but I had a great time, I was very tired but it was all very much worth it.
Saturday June 20th, I met some of my Dad’s family that I had never met. Unfortunately it was not the best circumstances. I met many of my Dad’s cousins, Pat, Michelle, Anna and more. I found out that my extended family, Pat’s mother, Aunt Carol who lived in Florida had passed away about 6 months ago. Saturday they came from Florida and had a small ceremony at Assumption cemetary with a reception that followed where I got to know my other family members. It was really nice to meet them but I am very sorry for their loss, many prayers for all of them and my Grandma who is pretty sick right now.
I think today was my all time favorite day. I have been trying and trying to get my driver license. I took the road test 4 other times and they kept telling me to come back because I was doing good and I finally did it! I did it, I have my NYS driver license, I am over the moon excited. I couldn’t stop screaming, my Dad videoed it, I think I screamed for a whole minute. My Mom put these two pictures of me on facebook and it got over 1800 views and something like 65 shares, how cool is that.
May 7th was my official last day of school. I got an A in my class. That day all we had to do was present our projects. There were ten students in the class. This guy Jordan went first and he did this art thing on YouTube and handed in his, it was great; the other eight handed in and presented their projects. I was second; I presented my project and did a pretty darn good job of it I thought. My project will be in the showcase in the Hallway and I am super excited. My professor sent me a picture of it. I am very proud of it on top of getting the A in the class I got an A on the project, YAY! I completed another course at OCC! This will give me22 credits toward my degree. I am so done with school for the summer.
I have been interning at Congressman’s office for a little bit now and I love working at the office I get to do many things like make copies. I got my new office and am waiting for the computer to be up and running. It has to go through Washington DC first. I have been learning how to answer the phone lines, and the computer system. I am doing work for some other staff members there also.
I have upcoming speeches in June, one at the Auburn Holiday Inn, I am the Keynote speaker for the Arise Conference. I am speaking at Father Gehl‘s retirement party. I am sad that he going to retire but I hope he has a good retirement and we will all miss him.
I went to Denver Colorado on May 13th. For an audition to be in a fashion show for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. We left Syracuse late on the 12th and got to our hotel in Denver at 1 am on the 13th, so we slept in a bit that morning and had kind of a kick back day, My Mom and I went shopping for a little bit. We went to the mall and I helped my mom pick out summer tops for our Florida trip that was the night after we got back.. I know busy right. After clothes, and jewelry shopping, we went to Grilling Wings and Things for lunch; it was so good and delicious. We drove over and checked out the venue that we were going to that night. We headed back to the hotel to take naps, got ready an hour and a half later or so for the audition. When we got there I checked in and joined the already long line to take pictures I held a sign which had my name on it. Then like Special Olympics it was a wait, but I got to sit down with my mom, I was in the B section the A section went before me. I got to watch what I was supposed to do. I got called up in line and headed backstage where we lined up by number. They called us up one at a time and I got to strut my stuff, while my picture was on the screen behind me, I did my walk and twirled like the judges wanted all of us to do. I went out stage left came out for a second to snap and point to the audience. My mom captured it in a video on her phone. I find out later in June if I have been selected, fingers crossed. After that we left, it was supposed to be a three hour audition but didn’t last that long. My mom and I left to grab a little dinner after changing at the hotel; we had to make it an early night because we had a mega early flight out.
We had a lot of time to get to the airport, but security was very long and we just got to the gate as they were calling our names, we were flying stand by and we just made the flight and got the entire row to ourselves again, then a connection in Charlotte and we got home by three, did some laundry and packed for the flight on Friday for vacation.
Friday after work we were on the road again, my parents and I went to Florida for a sunny family vacation, to the beach, the pool, jump some waves with my dad, see my Aunt Nancy and hang out. Friday was our travel night, I do have a good luck charm, it’s a pig pin and it seemed to work for our flights. We drove to the hotel; we had a condo in Siesta Key for a week but couldn’t get in until Saturday so we stayed in a hotel in Sarasota Friday night. It was an hour drive to the hotel in Sarasota not to bad uh?
I met a super nice and sweet flight attendant, her name is Kimberly and she had an Aunt (like a sister) who had Down Syndrome and died in her seventies a year or so ago, I was the very first person on the flight that she gave a snack and a drink and loaded me up with gluten free stuff. I really liked her and she is a super sweet girl. I made a new friend and she is awesome. I really like talking to her and get this I took a picture taken with her. I gave her my business card and she said she will check out my website. I hope that she really likes it.
On Saturday, after getting out of the hotel we made the trip to the condo where we unpacked everything walked around and to see what was what. We bought some groceries and by then the condo was ready to move into. We all unpacked the groceries. We walked down to the beach where a big volleyball tournament was being played. Then we went out to dinner, We went to the Lobster Pot, I had a very good dinner a salmon dish with cream sauce. It was so good.
Sunday we got to sleep in for a while, the day was perfect for the beach and the pool. We stayed at the beach for a couple of hours, came back upstairs just for a few minutes then headed down to the pool, the water was so refreshing. I went in the salt water with my dad at first then my mom, then family in the water, it was so relaxing. I hoped for a nice tan not the stinking sunburn. I had to go in the shade to prevent that from happening even at the pool. Read for a good awhile each day my book and magazine. After the pool, we all came back to the room took naps, showered and had a light lunch.
Every Sunday to ring in the upcoming week they play the drums on the beach and watch the beautiful sunset, so me, mom, and dad went down , they make a big circle in front of the drummers and let the dancers like me dance in the middle. The three of us were kind of in the circle but I was the only one dancing so the guy who was kind of in charge told my parents to move out of the circle if they were not dancing. So I danced with him and we got to move closer to the drums and dance, one of the drummers came towards me and he was like go girl, dance! It started to sprinkle and then came down a lot harder so we quickly left and went for a nice Mexican dinner. That was very good; we did a little condo shopping and went to TCBY to get a yogurt parfait that was so good. We just went back to the condo and kicked back..
Each day was pretty much a repeat, the beach, the pool and just lounge about. A nice relaxing vacation.
We went to a baseball game one night and it was relaxing to be outside and watch some baseball. We got a bit to eat at a burger place called Smacks afterward, and it was pretty good they had gluten free. I got a sunburn and it hurt but I put aloe on my skin and it felt great but really had to start being more careful the rest of the week.
My mom went shopped and I got 2 new bathing suits. We went to Anna Marie Island one night; it was about a 1 hour ride. We ended up going to the Sandbar for dinner, it was really nice to sit outside, we had a very good dinner, enjoyed the sun and the sunset was really nice.
Another night we took a drive to Venice and Naples, not that far from here I think about an hour or so again. We went to dinner last night and it was pretty good. We all went on a wonderful sunset cruise it was an hour and a half and it was breathtaking, we sat on the top deck and the view was awesome. We saw incredible homes, and wonderful views. They did a drawing for another cruise but we didn’t win it oh well. After that we just came back to the hotel and relaxed.
We also went to Sarasota , played mini golf, sat down to have a few drinks, iced tea, beer and stuff. After we played mini golf we went out to dinner and hung out for a while, walked around St Armand’s Circle window shopping. I got some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and when we sat down to eat it we met another family just walking around and talked to them. I talked to this girl Shannon and she has Down syndrome too. I thought this was really cool. Later we all went down to the pool for a quick swim and it felt really good.
On Friday, I promised my Dad I would take him to breakfast for eggs because he makes me eggs for breakfast every Friday. We went to Another Broken egg and it was very good, so much food. I had an omelet with tomatoes and gluten free pancakes. WOW it is awesome being gluten free and able to get food like that out in restaurants. We walked around after that and because of my sunburn my mom bought me a lightweight shirt to go in the water with. It is super comfortable and fits great. So we did our ritual went to the beach and the pool but get this we all went in the Ocean and something was slapping me on my leg, not my mom or not my dad (he was too far away). Found out it was a fish that kept slapping my legs the front and the back and then slapped mom in the legs too, she said that it felt creepy to her. I felt the same way but I thought it was also kind of cool in a different way. That night was a lazy kind of night. After watching Jeopardy we went out to Harry’s Sports bar and grill and had a yummy gluten free pizza. Mom and dad got sandwiches. It was a good night. A storm came and went fast like all the rain does in Florida.
The last day at the condo was an early start. We woke up about 8 in the morning finished our last minute packing, we had packed almost everything the night before. Then it was throw everything in a bag and go. We had food to go on the road with us. We got tuna wraps and stuff and I had leftover pizza. We left for Fort Pierce where we stayed in a hotel and got to see my Aunt Nancy. I was so looking forward to seeing her. We checked in at the hotel a little early so that was good. Mom was disappointed in the hotel, there was hardly any beach to sit on so when my Aunt got there we hung out for a couple of hours and drove to another beach stayed there for a while. I guess we have gotten spoiled at Siesta Key because we didn’t even go in the water because we didn’t like it, the water was rough and the sand was different. We went back and freshened up, went to my Aunt’s house for a little bit so she could freshen up then went out to dinner at Outback. We had a very nice dinner of steak and lobster and we got caught up on each other’s lives over dinner and desert, it was still vacation after all. We brought Aunt Nancy home drove back to the hotel and went to sleep because we knew that Sunday was going to be a pretty long day.
Sunday we got breakfast right at the hotel it was complimentary and it was pretty good and then we were back on the road again. We found a catholic church to attend in Vero Beach and the mass was really good and a good sermon. After Mass we went to the airport in Melbourne, and got through security very quickly and back home after a connection in Charlotte.
It was a great trip and now back to work, interning and another road test coming up, I’ll keep you posted. Lots of prayers, please!
**** Newest great thing that has happened to me….Last Friday April 24th, was one awesome day and I am incredibly happy and excited. When we went to Washington a couple of weeks ago, the Congressman asked me to work for him, do some speeches and special projects and to reach out to Erin O’Connor, who would be my boss and sell myself to her. He called her and introduced me over the phone so last Friday I went to the Congressman’s Syracuse office, and what an office it is, just so beautiful, the view was awesome to see. I gave her my resume and she did an impromptu interview. She said that I got the internship position (unpaid), but YAY! Erin gave me a tour of the office and introduced me to all of her and my new coworkers. I start my internship on Tuesday the 28th and I will be interning two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11:30. I am so excited and very overjoyed, definitely over the moon excited. I will wait to put this out until after I can include a day or two of my internship, WOW!!!
Well here it is. I started interning on Tuesday April 28th at Congressman Katko’s office and so far I have been shadowing Theresa while she answers the phone, so that I know how to answer them. In the beginning I have been sitting with her and learning the ropes of what I have to do. I have my new email set up at house.gov. On my first day I learned I am getting an office of my own and got to choose it, they said it is in the middle of everything, cool! I filled out some paperwork, moved some papers around to make a new folder. I met other people I hadn’t met yet. The Congressman came in and we talked for a minute and then back to work for both of us. There was art in the conference room that was part of a contest and one of them will hang in the hallway at the Capitol, the judges came in to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. On Thursday I was counting out survey cards that were returned and came up with 860. There is also a lot more to count, I think over a thousand of them. Next week I am going back to shadowing Theresa in the front on the phones and computer. I am waiting for the computer, someone said they will fix it so I can work on it. I really am over the moon excited and so looking forward to the weeks to come. I LOVE THIS INTERNSHIP!!
On March 17th I three Syracuse University Students came to my house to do a documentary about me for their class. They interviewed me and my Mom, they also came to one of my Track and Field practices and videoed me, my family and friends. Later in the month they showed their presentation at school and asked me to come to the viewing. I went into their classroom and I got to see the documentary that Corinna, Katie and Derek made. They did an awesome job. I hope they got a good grade.
On April 1st I had an early start. I was asked to Westhill High School to do a presentation to 10th graders on bullying. It was their last day of a no bullying week at their school. I was very happy and excited they reached out to me. I spoke about my accomplishments but also told them of how I was bullied and how it made me feel, NOT SO GOOD! I showed my video, the Principal and Vice Principal came in to hear me also. They gave me a nice bag of goodies, I got a themed Westhill mug, water bottle, shirt and gift card to Dunkin Donuts (right up my alley)! I love speaking at the schools and delivering my message. If I can help one person to reach out to get help if they are being bullied than I made a difference.
On April 8th, I spoke at Pensabene’s Casa Grande. I talked to Niagara Mohawk retirees at their meeting. They were generous in giving Gigi’s Playhouse a check so I went and spoke to them about Gigi’s and how they helped. I did the pledge of allegiance with them and they talked about a couple of things and then John the President introduced me. I told them of what Gigi’s offers and a little bit about my school experience. At the end I took questions and they were good ones. I felt happy to share my story about the Playhouse. Some of the retirees said it was a great speech and gave me a high five another said he remembered seeing me peak at Solvay High school and that that was a good speech and this was another good one. I took a picture with the head chef who was making the lunch for the luncheon; she also had me take a picture with the food?.
On Good Friday, the day that Jesus dies for us, my parents and I went to Stations of the Cross at Christ the King Retreat House, it was led by Bishop Robert Cunningham and he led us in prayer through the 14 stations with readers and in candlelight. It was a very nice service. At the end they were serving pizza and I asked the Bishop to join us at our table. I talked to him about Gigi’s Playhouse and being involved in my church as a Eucharistic Minister. We talked about other subjects as well. I thought how cool is this, talking to the Bishop. I felt very honored to talk to him.
Easter is the time to reflect on Jesus coming back from the dead and celebrating his life. On Easter Sunday, we celebrated with family. My parents and I went to my Aunt Melanie’s house to celebrate Easter, we had a lot of good food to eat for dinner, like ham, potatoes, vegetables, pierogi’s, kielbasa. Before all of that I looked in my basket that my parents always hide for me. I got a whole lot of goodies. I gave my parents theirs. We had our Easter best clothes on and went to church for mass that morning. After making our side dishes and part of the main course we went to my Aunt’s house. We all hung out and talked and enjoyed everyone’s company. After leaving my Aunt’s we went to Grandma’s house and gave her some food, she didn’t make it over, I missed her and really wished that she was there, but I completely understand. We left my grandmother’s and then went to the cemetary, we took our corsages from Dad and we laid them down at my other Grandmothers and Grandfather’s grave and prayed. Then it was a whole lot of nothing as we digested our food in the comfort of our house!
On April 14th we had an early start to our day, my Mom and I had to get up at 3 am for a 5 am flight to Washington DC. We were lucky we were able to check into our room by 7 am, before everything started happening, which was nice. We were in at the Buddy Walk on Washington for the National Down Syndrome Society. The self-advocates had a luncheon to attend alone, it was nice because my Mom had been sick and she got to kick back for a bit in our room. I went to the luncheon speak out session; I had a leadership role, I spoke about school, where I was from, what education means to me, I also I talked about Down syndrome in the social media and in the community. After the speak out session I met my Mom and got to watch Governor McAuliffe of Virginia sign a bill passing the ABLE act in his state. He is originally from Syracuse and he went to school with my Dad so I had my picture taken with him. We also went to a two hour training to go over what was happening the next day. That night there was a very nice dinner with an open bar where we got to mingle with other self-advocates and enjoy a nice dinner. They announced the winner of the Ethan Saylor scholarship, I applied for it and was hoping it was me but I understood because the family picked someone who reminded them of Ethan and I understood that completely. I was relaxed and comfortable throughout the night, though my shoes, not so much! We did meet some really nice people from New York City at our table, a Mom and her two daughters, the Mom works for ARC and may be contacting me to speak there in NYC, cool!!
The morning of the 15th was supposed to be an early start but my Mom still wasn’t feeling great so I went down stairs and told the group we would meet them there as soon as we could. We missed the breakfast and got to the Capital steps just as they were disbanding from the picture but they took a pic of Mom, me and Sara Weir on the steps. Our first meeting was with Senator Gillibrand, we met with her staff and took a picture together, we told her about what we were asking for and thanked her for supporting the ABLE act. I told them my personal story about education and what I have been up to at college, the ESEA act that we are trying to pass. I spoke with Senator Schumer and his staff. I remembered him from when he came to Syracuse to help push the ABLE act and showed him the picture of, he said we should take one here in Washington as well; all of the pictures have been posted on facebook. We had a break and we had an escort that led us to their subway car that lead us over to the House side of the Capital. It was a pretty quick ride and a long walk going to where we needed to go. Me and Mom had a break and went to the cafeteria to hang out and I grabbed a quick lunch, my Mom still wasn’t eating. Now my next meeting was awesome, I got to see my friend Congressman John Katko. We were waiting for him in his office talking to Jordan, his scheduler and checking out his cool new digs and he walked in and said Kayla come here give me a hug. I was honored to give him and award from the NDSS, Champion of Change award for helping people with Down syndrome. He looked around for a place to put it and we took a picture with him and I and the award and then a picture with Mom, him and I and the award, it was awesome! I said time to get serious and discuss why I was there. I asked him to sign on to the Down syndrome caucus and he said he would, yea! I also asked him to help us get the ABLE act passed in New York State. I was really happy, he also posted pictures on facebook, it was so cool to see especially in Washington. He told us his wife Robin was also there having lunch with the First Lady – pretty sweet. After the meeting we rushed back to the hotel to get our luggage to try and make the 4:30 flight with a connection in Boston to Syracuse. We got there in time but the flight filled so we tried for the 5:30 to Boston and finally made it on the 6:30 but no connection to Syracuse so we had to fly to Rochester and my Dad drove and picked us up. We didn’t get home until 12:30 am and we had to sleep fast because we had our regular schedules the next day. We were lucky though because that was the day the guy landed the gyrocopter at the Capitol and we had just left there or we would have been on lockdown, yikes, scary!
I recently had a meeting with my Aunt Michele and Pastor Karen from Word of Life church where my Aunt works. It was about a speaking engagement on Sunday April 19th. I went there and spoke to two services for the children; one kind of early in the morning and the other was late morning. I was in the room called The Sanctuary. They started out with songs of praise, and then Pastor Karen talked about offerings, we watched a short video of someone getting baptized. She is super energetic and introduced me as the special guest and I tried to keep the excitement going while I did my speech and showed my video. I opened up the floor to question and answers and they were some very smart kids and asked awesome questions. At the end of the 1st service some of the children came up to talk to me. I had a break for a bit and then the second service; it was the same speech so it was pretty much the same as before. This time after I opened it up for questions they had amazing questions that I never thought they would ask. I was really blown away by them.. At the end of this service , they lined up just to talk to me and I was really excited and it was super energetic for the first service, by the second service I was getting a little tired so I had to make sure that I was on my A game. I think I did ok with that. When it was over I was bone tired and not doing much else. My parents said just watching you was a little tiring and if they were up on stage, they would have been tongue tied with some of the questions. At the end of both services one of the kids came up on the stage and everyone extended their hands to me and I got prayed over. I thought that was really cool, and felt extremely blessed!
On April 21st I went back to Word of Life School. This morning Pastor Karen did things a little different. She did a blessing to our flag, the Christian flag and on the Holy Bible. She introduced me and I spoke just like I did on Sunday. I showed my video and again they asked great questions and it was fun to answer them. I got introduced to the other Pastors that worked there. At the end some of the kids lined themselves up and complimented me and just talked. One of them came up and did a blessing but got stuck in the middle, so I went to him and said you can do it, I know you can and I put my arm around his shoulders. He did very well. Pastor Karen gave me a stuffed Frog and a very nice thank you note. They tried to give me their offerings from the weekend kid’s service but I told her I wanted to donate them back to their collection for the Golisano Children’s Hospital collection. I felt good about that!
I have been plugging along in school in my Math class this month. Ernie and I worked on my final project and I had another test, just found out that I got 101 on it again so I still have a 101 average – yea!
I’m having a great week, great meeting with the Congressman and awesome grade in class and I weighed in at weight watchers and lost weight again, woo hoo. I have been really trying hard, eating better and working out like crazy and it is starting to pay off. I LOVE MY LIFE! Oh yeah another driving test coming up the beginning of June, they said I had it last time – the last part the double stop sign got me again, they said I had passed and that was the last part, DRAT! Next time!