Looking at the breathing machines and the tubes inserted in the bodies of her cousins brings Kayla West to tears. She watched helplessly as her family members have suffered from mitochondrial disease. Then, she decided to take action.

After being crowned Young Miss Rabbit Fest, the high school junior made it her mission to draw awareness to this rare disease and raise money to find a cure. She spent two years helping take care of the two children.

“My cousins are who inspired me to pick mitochondrial disease for my platform of service this year,” West said. “I spent a lot of time helping my aunt with getting them ready for bed and connecting them to their heart monitors, breathing tubes and feeding pumps.”

The 16-year-old has been selling popcorn to raise money and will be spearheading the Krist Kindl Pageant that will benefit mitochondrial disease awareness. The pageant will be held for the second year on Dec. 3 during the Krist Kindl Markt sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

“I hope one day there is a cure so that children can live long and happy lives. Also, the more people who know about mitochondrial disease, maybe more children will no longer go undiagnosed and can get the medical treatment they need,” West said. “Family is very important to me and my cousins hold a very special place in my heart.”

West, a military dependent for four years, has lived in multiple locations from Colorado to Washington and now to Texas where she has lived for a year. Her favorite classes are choir and veterinary medicine and she plans to go to college to become a veterinarian.

She has three sisters and one brother. She enjoys swimming at the lake, hiking and helping take care of her two cousins.

“Even though they have a lot of medical problems, my cousins don’t let their health issues limit them from having the best life they can have and they are just full of enthusiasm,” West said. “I am excited to raise awareness about mitochondrial disease and money to help families with all the expenses that come with it.”

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