By Libby Hopkins

Kayla Gasperone loved being a cheerleader. She loved gymnastics and playing t-ball too, but all of that changed on March 14 of this year. She went to the park on a family outing and on the way home she started complaining to her mom, Karen Parker, that she had a headache. “She was crying that her head hurt and her pupils looked funny to me,” Parker said, “When I got her in the house, she passed out and started to have a seizure.” Parker called 911 and Kayla was rushed to Florida Hospital in Tampa. The doctors ran tests on Kayla and discovered she had brain AVM that was 5.3 centimeters long on her left frontal lobe. She was in a coma for 10 days and when she came to, her mother realized that her daughter would have a long road ahead of her. “The AVM affected her speech and she lost all the function of her right side,” Parker said.

An AVM or arteriovenous malformation is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins. It is typically congenital, meaning it dates to birth. They can develop anywhere in the body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. A brain AVM, which appears as a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins, can occur in any part of your brain. The cause is unknown.

Penny Wagner of Seffner met Parker through a mutual friend and instantly fell in love with Kayla and her family. “I am determined to help Kayla and get the community involved with helping as well,” Wagner said. She formed “Kayla’s Crew,” which is a group of people from the Seffner community who have come together to raise money for her recovery. They did a benefit in April, which raised over $5,000. The local radio station, 94.1FM heard about the first benefit and wanted to get involved. “We decided to do another benefit because the radio station wants to help and Kayla still needs our help,” Wagner said. The next benefit will be help at The Kennedy Hill Pub in Seffner on June 22 at 2 p.m. “We had a great response from the first one and it helped Kayla and her family a lot, but she still needs therapy to help her fully recover from the AVM,” Wagner said, “Our goal for this benefit is $10,000.” Kayla’s Crew won’t stop until Kayla has fully recovered. Parker thinks Wagner and Kayla’s Crew are an amazing group of people who have come together to help her daughter.

“I don’t like asking people for help, but I can’t thank Penny and Kayla’s Crew enough for helping me and my family,” Parker said. If you would like to make a donation to Kayla’s recovery, you can contact Wagner at 716-860-3235, or come to the benefit on June 22. The Kennedy Hill Pub is located at 11801 E. U.S. Highway 92.


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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.