Meet Bayleigh Walker
Bayleigh Walker hates sitting on the bench in sports, and her passion is getting people with disabilities into the game – whatever game they love.
Now as Physical Education/Sports and Recreation Coordinator at The Whole Person, she’s excited about broadening her passion’s reach.
“My mom coached Special Olympics basketball before I was born,” Walker says of her very early experiences. “I was born on a Thursday. I went to a basketball game on a Friday and was at my mom’s Special Olympics practice on Tuesday. So really from birth I’ve been involved with Special Olympics."
“As soon as I was old enough to coach my own team – 14 or 16 years old – they were like, ‘Sure, you can have your own team.’ ”
An athlete herself, Walker played basketball in high school and college then had formative experiences working as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional, igniting her devotion to adaptive sports.
“I am happy and honored to have Bayleigh Walker as a part of The Whole Person,” CEO Michael Soodjinda says. “During her interview, I was completely moved by Bayleigh’ s compassion and passion for helping people with disabilities. She will take adaptive sports to completely new levels, not to mention foster our low vision, mental health, and other support groups.”
In her paraprofessional role with a 10-year-old student, Walker learned to be creative in overcoming barriers. She teamed up with the school’s PE teacher – and the shop teacher – to imagine and engineer ways he could participate.
They used PVC pipe and zip ties to make him a power soccer chair. Then built a tennis racquet with a badminton handle so he could play tennis. For each sport, they figured out how to rig something up.
“I went to adaptive PE with other students, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that just because these kids are different doesn’t mean they can’t play all these sports. That was the catalyst for me that I want these kids to be able to play all these sports that I love because they shouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines."
“Here, now seeing all the resources that are available through The Whole Person, I would like to make some of those resources more widely available,” Walker says.
She is eager to get people with disabilities who know about The Whole Person’s sports and recreation programs more involved. But she also wants to reach people who aren’t aware of one of Kansas City’s greatest resources. That makes her a perfect fit at TWP, whose mission is connecting people with disabilities to the resources they need.
Walker encourages people to reach out to her directly via email at email@example.com or by phone at 816-627-2220. To learn more about participating, please fill out the form here on The Whole Person’s Adaptive Sports Program main web page.
“For anyone in the community who has a disability or looks after someone with a disability, if there’s something they want to do but don’t see that we offer it, I would still like them to approach us about whether we could offer it,” Walker says.