On August 2, 2012, Kayla Harrison became the first American in history to capture an Olympic Gold Medal in the sport of Judo. In doing so, she made history for her country and her sport. As an individual, she climbed a personal peak that only a few years prior seemed insurmountable. At the age of 16, Kayla revealed that for years she had been sexually abused by her judo coach. Her revelation turned her world upside down. Kayla pressed charges and a federal criminal prosecution followed. Kayla moved from her home and family in Ohio to Massachusetts to live and train with Jimmy Pedro and his father “Big Jim.” They became her coaches and surrogate family. As a teenager, Kayla was made to rebuild her life in a new place surrounded by new people. Her Olympic Gold Medal represents the height of her athletic accomplishments, but doesn’t begin to tell Kayla’s story of personal triumph.
Kayla’s messages of belief in oneself, perseverance amidst obstacles, setting and reaching goals and peak performance have captivated audiences from community groups, to high schools and colleges, to women’s groups to Fortune 500 companies. Kayla is an especially sought after speaker on the topic of child sexual abuse, its warning signs and proof that with the right help, anything is possible.
The following are a sampling of the audiences
before whom Kayla has spoken:
- The Florida Department of Child Welfare
- Liberty Mutual Insurance
- Maximized Living, Inc.
- Big Sister Association of Massachusetts
- The Ohio MED Foundation
- Franklin & Marshall College
- Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children
- Metropolitan State University Denver
- Rosie’s Place Boston
- The Haverhill Chamber of Comerce
- Family Resources, Inc. of Pennsylvania
- The Massachusetts Dental Society
- Boston Children’s Hospital
“We found Ms. Harrison’s eloquent speech at our Day of Remembrance to be extremely moving and reflective. We are absolutely overjoyed that she could not only join us in this ceremony, but participate in such an amazing way, as she significantly contributed to the overall atmosphere.” – Kimberly Luciano, Children’s Hospital Boston
“Your keynote was a perfect reminder that the heart of a champion is within all of us. Your story has touched the lives of countless foster youth and child protection professionals here in Florida … your strength and courage both on and off the mat, are a true inspiration to us all.” – David E. Wilkins Secretary, State of Florida Dept. of Children & Families
“She did an outstanding job, she was so engaging, loved her delivery … Her message was right on target.” – John E. Hoying , Ohio MED Foundation
“Kayla was fabulous!” – June Anne Chalfant , MOCSA, Kansas City