Nothing slowed Kaley Schwartzwalder down.
She loved music and took singing, dancing and piano lessons. She loved karaoke and always made sure she dressed the part of the diva with sparkling, put-together outfits.
Kaley was fearless, said her mother, Elaine Schwartzwalder, and the severe form of spina bifida she suffered from never stopped her from doing what she loved.
"She would try anything once, even when she was little. She did whatever, anything she wanted to do, we let her do. 'Do you think I can do this?' 'Of course, we do,' " Schwartzwalder said. "She was an unbelievable individual with a zest for life."
Kaley died in July. She was 28.
Her mother, family and friends remembered her Saturday, Sept. 29, as they donned T-shirts and walked in the Central Ohio Spina Bifida Alliance's Walk, Run and Roll 5K, simultaneously raising money for the alliance and for the music therapy program at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Elaine Schwartzwalder said Kaley received treatment at Children's throughout her life, and she loved the music program, which would send a musician to her room at her request to play guitar and sing with her.
"Kaley, throughout her life, loved music. Music was really important in her life," Elaine Schwartzwalder said. "I think all kids love music anyway. If you're not feeling great and you're in the hospital and you can sing (it helps). Singing really helped her through a lot of tough times, even when she was very little."
Kaley always wanted to organize a fundraiser for Nationwide Children's Hospital, Schwartzwalder said, so organizing on in her honor seemed fitting.
Schwartzwalder said she also wanted to continue to raise awareness about spina bifida, a common birth defect. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect, involving incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and-or their protective coverings.
Schwartzwalder said she always worked as Kaley's personal advocate, ensuring that her daughter was in mainstream classes from the time she began attending Whittier Elementary School as a kindergartener until she graduated from Westerville South High School, and allowing her to participate in any activity she chose to.
"I've always been an advocate because (of) Kaley. She took dance classes, she took piano lessons, she took voice lessons. She even took a class at Columbus State. She looked online and she said, 'There's this vocal class,' " Schwartzwalder said. "She ended up getting an A in it. ... She really enjoyed that."
Kaley always was cheered on by her mom, dad Mike Schwartzwalder and her three sisters: Jenah, Lynsey and twin sister Britany.
"She kind of lived life passionately, looking toward the next day," Schwartzwalder said. "She was the center of our family, and not because of her disability. She was kind of the glue."
Both of Kaley's parents said they hope that Kaley is an example to others, proving that limits shouldn't be put on people with disabilities and that they can achieve what they want to with the support of the people around them.
"She would always get frustrated, and I would encourage her," Mike Schwartzwalder said. "I always pushed her to take risks. ... You have to encourage them to take risks and push them and let them do things, and they'll start letting you know, 'I want to do this.' "