By Melanie Barrios
Look up kindness in the dictionary and one might see a picture of Kayla Aulis. She knows the importance of doing good in the world and spreading kindness to others. She is also a fierce competitor on the journey to make her dream of becoming a world champion a reality.
Kayla is a swimmer representing Special Olympics Southern California at the USA Games for the first time. This moment is special to her as she grew up watching her older sister compete in collegiate swimming competitions. Now it is her turn to shine and Kayla could not be more honored to represent Southern California and the organization that has given so much to her.
Kayla is spending her time training with her swim coach to get in shape for the games. One of her biggest motivations is ACDC, her favorite band. During practice or on the way home, Kayla is blasting ACDC, and “nobody’s gonna slow [her] down.”
She is taking her family along for the ride, and her dad, Gary, is just as excited to get to see his daughter compete. “That’s what we want out of this for her to learn and get better, to make friends, and to just enjoy herself. We’re excited about her having the chance to travel,” he shares.
Kayla will be on the lookout for her family in the stands for a special shoutout, something she does at every competition. It is the confidence boost that she needs to do her best, knowing her personal cheer section is rooting her on. “There have been times she has stopped in the middle of a race to wave at us because she sees us cheering for her at the side of the pool. For us to see her have that much fun and that much enjoyment and to have people cheering her on is everything to us,” Gary states.
Kayla has been in Special Olympics since she was 8 years old. She loves attending practice and events because Special Olympics is a huge part of her life. Kayla says, “[Special Olympics] makes me feel better and get healthier.” Now that Kayla is older, she enjoys learning different ways to get better by taking her workouts seriously. She sets realistic goals for herself that she can achieve, which she refers to as an important life lesson to learn.