At 13 years old, Kayla Perry blows away the competition with her determination to succeed.
Kayla Perry seems like a typical seventh grader in her Ohio hometown. She looks forward to school dances and tried out for the cheerleading squad. As the oldest of four siblings, she and her 10-year-old brother Keegan bounce around on their trampoline after school and make up new tricks.
Her cheerful and positive disposition complement her passionate determination; a determination that sets her apart from the pack in cheerleading, running and rock climbing, to name just a few of the activities that she has mastered.
Before Kayla was born, her mother Theresa Perry, and physicians thought something might be wrong.
“I had really low weight gain when I was pregnant with her so I had a specialist [conduct] ultrasounds,” Theresa said.
But these early tests did not reveal that Kayla would be a congenital left transradial amputee. It was not until birth that her family was confronted with this reality. Moving past their initial shock raising questions like, “Where is she going to put her wedding ring?” and “How is she going to ride a bike?” her family soon realized the gift they were given.
Looking back Theresa thinks these concerns were menial, as nothing has stood in Kayla’s way.
Kayla has used a prosthesis off and on for the last 13 years. Currently she does not wear one – a habit formed early partly because of how quickly she would grow out of her old prosthesis.
“She wore it a lot before she got to the age of 2,” Theresa told O&P Business News. “She was growing so often … that she started learning to do things without it”
It was not until junior high, this year, that she decided she wanted to be fit with a cosmetic hand to wear to school dances and other social events.
Like a lot of little girls, Theresa explained, Kayla participated in tap and ballet as a child. But she recalls a particularly trying challenge that Kayla tackled with her intense determination.
“We never said that she couldn’t do something,” Theresa said explaining one of the biggest obstacles for all children, but especially Kayla – the monkey bars. “She would sit out there trying … and got to a point where she would do a pull-up with her right arm and grab [the bar] with her little nub and then quickly grab the next one and do another pull-up all the way until she got to the other end.”
In addition to tackling this playground nemesis, Kayla has succeeded at a number of other sports – including pom and baton, gymnastics, cheerleading and most recently track and dirt biking, to only add to her already impressive catalog.
For many, Kayla is an inspiration and it is her determination that has led her to that coveted role among her peers.
“She wants to do everything. She wants to be the best,” Theresa proudly bragged. “She just tried out for cheerleading for her squad for her school and out of 32 girls for a 10-girl squad, she made the cut. It’s determination. She went out and practiced. That’s her.”
Kayla explained that there is also another motivation at work.
“I just hate it when people say [I] can’t do this because [I] have one hand,” Kayla said. It gets me worked up … so I just go for it.”
U.S. Paralympic Championships
The Perry family attended the 2007 U.S. Paralympic Championships in support of a patient of the family’s prosthetic facility, Perry Prosthetics Inc. Her father, Chris Perry, saw this as an opportunity for Kayla to push herself and signed her up to run the 100m.
Kayla only ran once before she arrived at the Championships and was understandably nervous to be running for the first time at such a large event.
It was not until she arrived however, that Kayla learned she would also be competing in the 200m and the long jump.
“We kind of throw Kayla into a lot of positions,” Theresa said laughing.
This unbelievable opportunity was only heightened when Kayla had the chance to meet April Holmes.
“April Holmes really took Kayla under her wing,” Theresa said. “She literally put her arm around Kayla and showed her around the track. She even did the long jump with her.”
The results of the 100m revealed that Kayla is now the fastest runner in the United States for her amputation level in that race.
When asked to reflect on her performance, it seems that her family and those in attendance were not the only ones impacted by her first race.
“I was impressed with myself,” Kayla said. “I didn’t know I could run that fast.”
Similar to her experience at the U.S. Paralympic Championships, Kayla expected to be a spectator at the 2008 Extremity Games. That plan, however, was not the one that unfolded.
“We told Kayla to pick out what event [she] really wanted to go watch,” Theresa said.
She selected rock climbing which did not surprise her parents as she attempts the rock walls at local fairs when she has the chance.
“We went to the rock climbing event [at the Extremity Games] literally just to watch the event happen,” Theresa said. “When we got there … Chris signed her up.
Kayla was getting geared up to attempt the practice wall where they allow spectators to give it a shot when her father shared the news that she would be competing.
Determined to succeed, Kayla made her way to the top of the wall six times. It all turned out to be worth it. Her first time out at the Extremity Games and she managed to rank in the event.
Kayla is just as determined to succeed as she is to have a good time doing it.
“I’m not afraid of heights and I think it’s really cool to climb up there,” she said. “It was really fun. It felt really good because I accomplished climbing a 40-foot wall. It was great.”
Looking ahead to the events at the Extremity Games this summer, Kayla is looking forward to meeting new people. Theresa is excited to see what Kayla can accomplish this year and how much further she can go.
“I’m looking forward to … trying my best again and seeing how many rock walls I can get past this time,” Kayla said. “Hopefully more than six.”
Jennifer Hoydicz is the managing editor of O&P Business News.