Kaila Parker joined the Concussion Legacy Foundation as a volunteer in 2013 while she was a student in Chicago and has been helping to advance the Foundation’s mission ever since. Kaila served as a volunteer coordinator for our Ambassador Program and did an outstanding job formally welcoming new Ambassadors and providing support for major Concussion Legacy Foundation events in the Chicago area.
We’re grateful to Kaila for being one of our most active Ambassadors and for supporting our Chicago branch of the Team Up Against Concussions education program, which teaches elementary-aged kids what a concussion is, and why they should care about it.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a CLF Ambassador?
I’m originally from Cleveland and I went to undergrad at DePaul University, which is a partner with the Concussion Legacy Foundation. There was a group on campus that took a bunch of us from the science department (I majored in Biology) to help run Team Up, and that’s how I got introduced to the Foundation. We went to different schools and gave a concussion presentation to kids in grades 4-12. It was just a great experience. I got to meet Chris Nowinski which was really cool, and I got insight into the whole organization and saw the forefront of it all. It made me continue to want to get involved with this organization so when I moved back to Cleveland after college I became an Ambassador for you guys and did phone calls for the telephone database welcoming new Ambassadors.
I started a research job last year but I’m still involved and doing as much volunteering as possible. It is such an awesome organization and you meet amazing people.
Your father Cardell Parker played in the NFL. Did that affect your decision to volunteer for the Concussion Legacy Foundation?
My dad played for the Detroit Lions in the 70's. He was about to be traded to the Cleveland Browns, but tore both of his ACL’s in the same game. It was a career-ending game for him, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. My dad is a pretty big driving factor in why I connected so well with CLF. He's an awesome guy and an even better father, but he has a lot of cognitive issues from dedicating the larger portion of his life to football. He's taken this, though, and put it to good use as a little league football coach. He’s the coach who really stresses having fun and being safe over winning. Being a part of CLF has helped me further connect with him in advocating for an important issue and recognizing the need for something to change.
What is the most rewarding part about being an Ambassador for the Foundation?
The most rewarding thing for me is getting to know the normal people who might have an everyday experience where they become affected by head trauma. Being able to listen to people's stories and let them know that I understand them and that this organization is there for them was really rewarding. Especially listening to people flip a switch and realize how serious this is and why it’s important to be aware and help spread the word to other people that this is just not a bump on the head…it’s a concussion. It felt great hearing how awesome and thrilled people became saying, ‘yeah I can totally relate and want to help!’
Being an Ambassador was a great experience because you never really know how many people are affected by concussions and traumatic brain injuries, even outside of sports. There was a surprising amount of moms and dads who were setting up a swing set for their kids and the swing set would fall on their head and give them a concussion and they wouldn’t really know the repercussions of it. There were also a lot of people who were just very interested in getting involved with the organization. It was nice to touch base with everyday people who were so interested.
Which of the Foundation’s events or campaigns is most meaningful to you?
I would say Team Up Against Concussions is the most meaningful to me. I loved being a telephone Ambassador and listening to people’s stories, but I think impacting the younger generation is what really hit home with me. I love kids (I babysit quite a lot) and I really connect with children. So presenting Team Up even to kids who are not on a sports team but have a friend or cousin on one, and seeing them fully comprehend how important this is felt like it really mattered. With so many kids being active and involved in sports, being able to spread the word at such a young age is so impactful. It’s kind of inspirational to know that you made a difference like that.
What would you say to someone thinking about becoming an Ambassador?
Do it. I would say especially for college students who want to be involved with an organization. Even if you don’t really think it applies to you, it probably does. The time commitment can be as big as you want it to be and the time that you do put into this organization and making yourself involved is so meaningful at a young age.
If you’re applying for grad school or for jobs, everyone wants to be able to say that ‘I changed the world’ or ‘I made a difference’ and this is a perfect organization to do that for the resume. But also just to make yourself feel good and know that you’re impacting a significantly large community in need that most people don’t know exists.
Interested in becoming an Ambassador? You can learn more or sign up here.