Without even an exchange of words, Laura Hayward’s soul can be heard singing. A contagious smile and a kindhearted demeanor are but two of the complimentary components that define this Special Olympics Wilkes County athlete. Gentle in approach, but strong in her conviction, Hayward carries much more than a tune, but a willful pride in being a Special Olympics athlete.
Beginning her athletic career in Special Olympics at the age of 5 in Texas, Hayward remained active as her family moved to Illinois and then to Ohio. Landing in North Carolina, the Haywards are integral members of the Special Olympics Wilkes County family. Hayward competes and trains in swimming, basketball and cheerleading. Challenging her strength and endurance through her favorite sport, swimming, she is avid in practicing for back stroke and free style events.
Referring to swimming as an optimal, full-body workout, Hayward challenges herself to reach new milestones in the pool. Setting a goal of swimming one mile, she worked to achieve that goal for six consecutive weeks, much quicker than expected.
“Special Olympics helps build strength, flexibility and endurance for a healthy life,” said Hayward.
Maintaining an active lifestyle throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Hayward joined Special Olympics North Carolina’s at-home fitness program, Partner Up Power Up. Logging on for a total of 10 weeks, Hayward celebrated the conclusion of the program, the virtual dance party, via the front seat of her car while traveling with her mom.
Joining a dance party from the passenger seat of her mom’s car is but one example of Hayward’s exceptional ability to multitask. Always busy, she is highly involved in her church, singing solos in the choir, volunteering with the children’s ministry and vacuuming. Music has been a constant in her life and a hobby that she continues to explore. For the past two years, she has been learning ukulele and guitar online.
When she’s not strumming or singing, she can be found working in her new garden, planting and harvesting collards, kale, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, blueberries and beans. Her ingredients are useful in creating recipes from scratch, including banana bread and no-bake desserts.
Healthy foods and healthy living go hand-in-hand. Outside of Special Olympics programming, Hayward spends her time walking, climbing stairs and practicing yoga. Hayward lives the definition of total wellness, establishing the priorities of connecting mental and physical health. But, of course, there is always room for dessert!