A lot of smiles, tears and memories will be shared this weekend by Kayla Stripling’s family and close friends.
The group, also known as “Team Kayla,” will honor the 28-year-old woman during the Footprints in the Sand Kidney Walk on Saturday, May 12 in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Robin Larger and Kimberly Reebel will make the journey alongside Stripling’s parents, George and Libby Applegate, plus David and Maria Traugott, who helped create “Team Kayla.”
At least 18 people will walk along the sandy beaches in remembrance of Stripling, who died in December 2017 of a heart attack.
The 28-year-old Newnan native was waiting for a second kidney transplant when she passed away.
Larger and Reebel met Stripling years ago when they all worked at the former Jekyll and Hydes Sports Bar before it closed.
“She was always super bubbly,” said Larger. “She was jokester. If you were having a bad day, she would do anything to make you laugh.”
“She was a ball of energy and she liked to prank people,” added Reebel with a smile. “She liked to hide in cabinets and scare people. She was the queen of laughter.”
Stripling would often visit Reebel and Larger at the RPM Patio Pub & Grill off Jackson Street, where the two women work.
Reebel is the bar manager and bartender, while Larger is a bartender and server at the restaurant.
The women kept tabs on Stripling. When the 28-year-old woman’s health started to fail, Reebel, Larger and other friends held benefit rides.
They were getting ready to hold another fundraising event at RPM in December of 2017 when the women learned Stripling passed away.
“She had so many friends and people at Jekyll and Hydes that loved her,” said Reebel. “It was amazing to see how many people came out to her memorial, how many people adored her and loved her.”
“She touched so many lives,” said Larger. “It’s almost like she was the glue that held our community together.”
The women, along with RPM owner Joe Rizzo, still held a benefit for Stripling after she died. The proceeds went to Stripling’s parents to help with funeral costs.
The fundraiser was held the weekend of December 8, 2017 – the same weekend heavy snow fell around Coweta County.
“People still trekked out into the snow and to RPM to help out,” said Larger. “It was crazy because Kayla loved the snow … it was like she was there.”
Stripling also planned to attend the Footprints in the Sand Kidney Walk on Saturday.
It would have been the second time she had participated in the event, which benefits the National Kidney Foundation, said Reebel.
“Team Kayla” was created in January. The group set a goal of $10,000.
They exceeded their own expections. “Team Kayla” has raised more than $11,400.
That money includes $5,000 raised by Reebel, Larger, Rizzo and patrons of RPM during a recent benefit in Stripling’s honor.
A glass jar with a picture of the 28-year-old Newnan native still sits on the edge of the bar inside the restaurant.
“Team Kayla” hopes to collect more money before they leave for Cocoa Beach, Fla. on Thursday night.
“I don’t want people to underestimate their donation,” said Larger. “Every cent, every dollar will help make a difference in someone’s life.”
All the proceeds will go to the Footprints in the Sand Kidney Walk and the National Kidney Foundation, said Reebel.
The National Kidney Foundation raises awareness about renal disease, funds research and compensates patients for their medical costs, according to their website.
Larger and Reebel said the donation and the walk is in honor of Stripling.
“It’s bittersweet,” Larger said. “We know we’re helping other people, but we wish she was there with us.”
“It’s a way for us to never lose sight of her, what she went through, what she stood for and the medical battles she faced constantly,” Reebel explained. “Even though she won’t be there, her legacy will live on.”
The Cocoa Beach event will include a ceremony in the ocean where surfers will create a “circle of life” in the water.
The circle will be dedicated to Stripling.
Anyone wishing to donate to “Team Kayla,” can visit www.cococabeachkidneywalk.org and click on “Team Kayla,” or stop by the RPM Patio Pub & Grill off Jackson Street.
For more information about the Footprints in the Sand Kidney Walk and the National Kidney Foundation, visit www.kidney.org.