Born with a cleft palate and other congenital disorders, Jayla’s health was always fragile. She couldn’t hear or speak and underwent frequent surgeries and painful medical procedures throughout her life. Despite her frailties, she graduated from the Indiana School for the Deaf and had a job at Goodwill.

Jayla loved to come to United Way supported Hawthorne Community Center. She was a third generation Hawthorne kid. Her grandmother, father, uncles, mother, aunts and cousins had all participated in many different Hawthorne activities over the past 50 years. Her father is a fixture with Hawthorne’s dance program, making costumes, building sets and teaching classes.

Even though Jayla couldn’t hear the music, she loved to dance. She performed in Hawthorne’s 2014 Spring talent recital and remained active in the dance program until she went into the hospital in December for a minor procedure. No one dreamed she would never come home because she had beaten the odds so many times before.  Sadly, Jayla passed away at age 24.

While they grieve at her passing, everyone who knew Jayla remembers and is inspired by her strength and passion for life. The key is that Jayla never thought of herself as different and at Hawthorne she was always treated just like everyone else. Jayla loved people and even when she was in pain or recovering from yet another surgery, she was always happy. She was a wonderful example of perseverance and the pure joy of living.

Hawthorne dedicated a recent Spring recital to the memory of Jayla. We will all smile and remember her passion for life and love of dance. We know she is now where she can hear the music and sing along.