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state mother of the year
Kayla Schadegg, 2024 Kansas Mother of the Year.

Kayla Schadegg

February 12, 2024

About

Bio

Kayla Schadegg (BSE) is a Kansas native, amateur fitness aficionado, pageant queen, and disability advocate. Kayla graduated from Emporia State University in 2013, and relocated to the East coast soon after. In 2016, she and her husband, Kelly, welcomed their first child, Kerrigan, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. The impact of the diagnosis process inspired Kayla to create Strong Over Wrong, a platform aimed at improving the diagnosis experience for new families and healthcare across the lifespan for patients with Down syndrome. The Schadeggs then welcomed their son, Knox, in 2021. Kayla currently serves as the New Parent & Medical Outreach Specialist at Down Syndrome Innovations encouraging new mothers, training and engaging with professionals, and working with health care providers. Her greatest hope is to capitalize on her ability to collaborate to catalyze a positive change—leaving the world a  better place for the generations that follow.

Parenting Philosophy

My parenting philosophy is somewhat unique, because it has been largely formed (and informed) by my exposure to the disability community from a very young age. My younger sister has an intellectual disability, and my own mother worked as a para-educator in special education for most of my childhood; to say that inclusion and access for individuals with disabilities was a pillar of my upbringing would be an understatement. With my own children, as well as the children I work with as a disability advocate and as a gymnastics coach, I find it incredibly important to lead by example. We lead our children with respect, and we acknowledge that none of us is perfect to encourage growth and a love for learning new things. I guide most, if not all, of my parenting style and choices by looking ahead to the future I envision for my children. I dream of them as adults in a world where there is no “othering,” and where individuals are respected for who they are and what they bring to the table rather than any disabilities or struggles they may have. I know that in order to achieve that future, I must help guide my children and the other children in my care each day to be understanding, accepting, and compassionate humans–which is easiest to do by demonstrating those traits to them myself, in our interactions.

Motherhood and Community

The first activity I am involved in is pageantry. I am the reigning Mrs. North America United World, but have also held the titles of Mrs. Kansas United World, Mrs. Kansas International, and Mrs. Maryland America. I started participating in pageants as an adult, married woman, at the age of 27. My goal was to find a unique way to advocate for my daughter and the Down syndrome community, and pageantry has done just that. It has opened so many doors and allowed me to advocate for the disability community on a much grander scale than I ever imagined. Thanks to pageantry, I have friends all over the globe who share our story and use their voice to further our message of inclusion. I serve as a Co-Chair of the Children with Special Health Care Needs committee in our state’s Family Advisory Council. This is incredibly important to me as it offers a concrete, immediate place that my voice (and my family’s needs) can be heard and put into action. I love collaborating with other council members from across the state to create ideas, projects, and inspiration for our Department of Health and Environment to make Kansas an incredible place to live for families who may have disabled or medically complex children. I also serve on the Board of Directors and the event committee for the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas organization. This is a pageant – but not a typical “beauty” pageant that most would think of. This system is designed to uplift and encourage women who are wheelchair-mobile. They enjoy an entire weekend of sessions dedicated specifically to their goals and needs, learning about important advocacy efforts, communication and media skills, and team building activities. The winner of the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas title each year then spends a year attending events and goes on to participate in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, but also for my daughter to see empowered disabled women blazing trails for themselves and the young women of the future!

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