Payton Slaymaker was a kind and gentle 8-year-old from Claypool, Indiana, known for her contagious smile. She adored her little sister, Avery, and never shied away from performing in front of a crowd.
Just after a wonderful family vacation in Texas, Payton’s parents began to notice something strange; Payton began frequently holding her head down and at an angle. When Kimberly asked her daughter if something was wrong, Payton explained that she was experiencing double vision. Slightly alarmed but assuming Payton might simply need glasses, Kim took her in for a vision test. There, the doctor suspected there might be something behind Payton’s eyes and recommended an immediate trip to the hospital for an MRI.
Very quickly, the Slaymaker family’s life came crashing down. The MRI did indeed reveal that there was a mass in Payton’s brain. The MRI images were sent to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana, and on July 11, 2019, a team of doctors diagnosed Payton with DIPG. She was given just 9 to 13 months to live, with radiation being the only course of treatment recommended.
After completing 30 rounds of radiation, the Slaymaker family decided they wanted to make the rest of Payton’s life as normal as possible. The feisty little redhead with a heart of gold went back to school, continued as a girl scout, and attended dance class twice a week.
Payton battled courageously for 21 months before passing away on April 21, 2021. In her short 10 years, she touched the lives of thousands and will forever be missed by her family, who shares Payton’s story in an effort to raise awareness of the disease that stole her life.
What Can One Person Can Do?
Heather Lyions learned about the horrors of DIPG when her friends and co-founders of the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation, Jenny and Mark Mosier, lost their son, Michael, to the disease in 2015. Heather is the Vice President & Associate General Counsel at Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company located just up the road from Payton’s family in Warsaw, Indiana.
Inspired by the outpouring of support throughout the community, Heather decided to take action in an effort to help the mission to find a cure for the devastating disease that had now touched two families in her life. Through a joint philanthropy initiative between the Zimmer Biomet Legal Department and Morgan Lewis, Heather nominated the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation for a grant in honor of Payton. Her efforts resulted in a $10,000 donation to fund DIPG research.