Foundation created to honor teen killed in fall

When Larry Castro kissed his daughter’s cheek for the last time in April, he didn’t say goodbye to the comatose Escondido teen, who had been gravely injured in a rock-climbing fall. Instead, he whispered “I’ll see you later.”

A moment later his wife, Allison, whispered the same phrase to their dying daughter.

Neither of the devout Christians knew until later they’d said the same parting words to their beloved 18-year-old, Makayla “Kayla” Castro.

Nine months later, the parents are like-minded in another way — the desire to keep Kayla’s spirit alive by honoring and celebrating the kind of good works she embraced.

To that end, the Castros have set up the Live Like Kayla Foundation in their daughter’s memory. The idea, posted on the Live Like Kayla website, is to provide educational scholarships and outreach programs for kids “who live their lives with the same values and spirit as Kayla.”

They said they have secured nonprofit status for the foundation and have raised close to $70,000 through donations — many from individuals — and the sale of Christmas wreaths. They also have a charity golf tournament planned at The Crosby golf course in Rancho Santa Fe on July 11.

The goal of the foundation is to encourage people to express Kayla’s values of love, joy and compassion, and to help shape future Christian leaders “by impacting them with Kayla’s story,” Larry Castro said.

With the foundation, “we are finding purpose in our pain,” said Allison. “We are honoring her by doing what she wanted to do in her lifetime.”

Kayla, the only girl among the Castro’s six children, graduated from San Pasqual High School in 2015 and went on to attend Grand Canyon University, a private Christian college in Phoenix.

On April 20, she and a friend went to Camelback Mountain, a popular hiking spot not far from the GCU campus. Her mother says the teen had no idea how dangerous scaling the rock would be. As Kayla free-climbed, many passersby stopped to watch her scramble along the rock face. Then, horrified, they saw her fall 60 to 100 feet to the bottom.

The teen was rushed in critical condition to a Scottsdale hospital, where she was placed in a medically induced coma. She died 10 days later.

Kayla’s organs were donated and saved the lives of four strangers, among them a father and a grandmother, Allison Castro said.

We are honoring her by doing what she wanted to do in her lifetime.

— Allison Castro, Kayla’s mother

When her devastated parents returned home from Phoenix, they walked into Kayla’s bedroom and found a canvas sprawled across the bed on which the teen had written: “Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgives the bad and a soul that never loses faith in God.”

“That was her,” said Larry Castro. “She lived her life with joy, happiness, love, faith, compassion.”

Hundreds turned out for Kayla’s memorial service, and many young people approached her parents to share stories about the kind and outgoing girl. There was a young man who said he never spoke to Kayla, but felt she was a best friend because she smiled so warmly at him every time they crossed paths in the dorm. There was a girl who said that in the sixth grade, Kayla saw she was being bullied and befriended her.

In high school, Kayla made the honor roll, even though she was taking tough AP (advanced placement) classes. She had also played a number of different sports — soccer, swimming, water polo, track, field hockey. Teammates called her “Smiley,” and she won the end-of-season “coaches award” from her field hockey coach.

The Castros have provided a scholarship to last year’s coaches award winner. In addition, they gave one last summer so a teen from Emmanuel Faith Church could attend a Christian summer camp in San Diego last year.


Escondido woman, 18, badly hurt in rockclimbing fall

Teen who died after fall was ‘definition of light’

Larry Castro, who owns a cyber security company, is building the Live Like Kayla website, which features several pictures of his vibrant daughter, as well as two short videos that highlight her smiling widely and mugging for the camera. The site isn’t finished because going through the photos can be so heartbreaking that he needs to stop for a while, Castro said.

The couple hold tight to their Christian faith and find solace in the foundation, which they said is a manifestation of Kayla, “the most amazing person I ever met,” her mother said.

The finance and economics major had considered becoming a wedding planner, “but the one conversation we had over and over was that she didn’t know what she wanted to do, she just wanted to help people,” Kayla’s mother said.

“That is the same with the foundation,” Allison continued. “We just know that we want to help people.”

Twitter: @TeriFigueroaUT