Kayla Noel Kelly, 21, of Hazleton, passed away peacefully Tuesday at her home in the arms of her mother with her dad at her side. She was surrounded by her loving family and friends on Tuesday, hours after arriving home from the Hershey Medical Center, where she had been a patient for most of summer and autumn after receiving a heart transplant on Feb. 1, 2012.
She was born in Berwick, the daughter of Shawn Kelly and Billie-Jean Kelly on July 14, 1992, and was a graduate of the Hazleton Area High School, Class of 2010. Kayla was currently a student at Kaplan University.
She loved arts and crafts and was very creative. She loved photography and the arts. Kayla had a passion for diverse music, attending many music concerts and shows, including Dave Matthews Band, The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, John Mayer and Katy Perry. Demi Lovato once told Kayla that she inspired her.
Kayla was an avid fan of the Bloomsburg Fair, Knoebels and the Disney Channel. She had an ongoing friendly rivalry with one of her doctors over the Phillies and the Yankees. A Phillies fan, she usually won. She had played softball on the First Federal All American League, 2000 and 2001, before learning of her illness. In the spring of 2013 she was so happy to play softball again on the Kato Construction Team, Drifton, with her boyfriend Corey Ryba.
She was Justin Bieber's first Make-A-Wish Kid and was very dedicated to the serious need for organ donors, inspiring many to sign their donor card. Multiple blood donations were held in her honor bringing in record amounts of donors. She participated in walks for charity before and after her transplant.
She inspired many with her strength and courage in her battle against heart disease. Her positive attitude and love of life touched the lives of all who knew her and even those whom she had never met. Her motto "Fight Like Kayla" and "Never Say Never" were repeated over and over again in places far and near. Prayers were said for her around the world. Her family is forever grateful, as was Kayla, to Jesse Sterowski, her donor, and to his family. They are also grateful to all organ donors for they give others a second chance at life.
Preceding her in death were her grandfathers, Robert J. Kelly and Wilbur (Bill) Hengst.
She is survived by her parents, Billie-Jean (Hengst) Kelly and Trinity Stempko, Sugarloaf; Shawn Kelly, York; and Gina Kelly, Red Lion; her brother, Ryan Keith Kelly and Catherine Taylor, State College; her grandmothers, Donna Kelly, with whom she resided; and Carol Hengst, Sugarloaf. Her fiancé, Corey Ryba, McAdoo, also survives.
Surviving are great-aunts and uncles, Nancy Ecker and Charles, Hazleton; Rosemary, Shenandoah; Wiliam Horn and Ginny, Holmes; Linda Imler and Joseph, Sterling, Va.; Nellie Smith, Imler; and George Higgens, Houtzdale.
Also surviving are uncles and aunts, Keith Kelly and Wendy, Spring Grove; Tara Claussen and James, Sugarloaf; Lisa Baker and Wesley, Benton; Trina Quinn and Ronnie Goode, Allentown; Jennifer Hengst and Sean Salmon, Exeter; and Rick Hengst and Shanan, Drums. Many cousins, friends and her beloved dog, Max, also survive.
A viewing will be held on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Fierro Funeral Service, 26 W. Second St., Hazleton.