New island tradition starts Saturday
The first running of the Payton’s Pace 5K will wind through the streets of Jamestown on Sunday. The inaugural race is open to both runners and walkers, and organizers are hoping as many as 300 people will make it to Fort Getty to support the Payton Elizabeth Watson Memorial Foundation.
The charity was created in memory of Payton Watson, a North Kingstown youngster who was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in October 2006. Her parents heard the bad news after Payton suffered from strep throat that would not go away. She spent four months at Hasbro Hospital, receiving high doses of chemotherapy treatment. The results of the treatment were not positive.
Payton’s only chance was a bone marrow transplant, and she underwent one at Boston Children’s Hospital the following March. This time the results were encouraging, and Payton did well for the next 18 months. However, in September 2008, Payton’s parents learned that the disease had returned – she passed away the following month, just weeks before her 12th birthday.
Payton’s mother, Liz Watson, was contacted by Maureen Dunn following Payton’s death. Dunn was the organizer of Ali’s Run, a popular road race held on the island for 10 years. Dunn held the event in memory of her own daughter – she decided to discontinue the 5K last year.
Along with her husband Frank, who was a Jamestown police offi cer for 35 years until his retirement in 2010, Liz Watson was already thinking of doing something in memory of their daughter. The road race that Dunn suggested seemed like a perfect fit.
“It sounded like a good idea,” Watson said. “We can do good things. For more selfish reasons, it’s so that nobody else will forget Payton. I know that we won’t forget her, but I wanted to make sure that nobody else did.”
The good things that Watson mentioned come in the form of charitable contributions to the organizations that helped Payton during the time of her illness. The money collected as a result of entry fees will go to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and The Tomorrow Fund.
The camp was founded by Paul Newman in 1988 for children with cancer, but has expanded its involvement to children with other diseases as well. Payton attended one of the camps in Connecticut during the summer before her death. The Tomorrow Fund is at Hasbro, and provides financial support to the families of sick children.
The Watsons have also founded a new bead program at Hasbro, which they have named “Payton.” When children are diagnosed with cancer, they are given a necklace and a bead. Every time they undergo treatment – be it chemotherapy, physical therapy, surgery – they receive another bead for their necklace.
“When they’re all done with their cancer treatment, they have a visual representation of their unique battle with cancer on the necklace,” Watson said.
The Payton Elizabeth Watson Memorial Foundation – a registered nonprofit group that is sponsoring the event – also wants to contribute to things that Payton was interested in while she was alive. Since she played soccer, there will be contributions to local soccer teams, as well as local arts organizations. Eventually Watson hopes to establish a college scholarship in Payton’s name. Ideally, the first such scholarship would be to a student who is part of the North Kingstown High School Class of 2014, which is the year that Payton would have graduated.
The race is open to everyone. Registration is $25 and will stay open until the race begins. Entry into the half-mile fun run for children younger than 10 years old is free. That event will begin at noon. The Watsons hope to have as many as 300 participants in the race. Already 150 people have preregistered.
While many of the entrants are from Jamestown, there are people coming from as far afield as New Hampshire, Indiana and Virginia as a result of race information that has appeared on various running websites.
There will be a $100 prize for the top male and female runner. There will also be prizes for the top three men and women in the race’s six classes: junior (under 18 years old), open (19-39), master (40-49), senior (50-59), veteran (60-69) and VIP (70 and older). The first 300 people to sign up for the race will receive a complimentary T-shirt.
In addition to the race activities, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will have a tent at Fort Getty with information about its program called Team in Training. At one time Payton was a poster child for the program. For the kids there will also be face painting, a bouncy house, and other activities. Jamestown Tavern is contributing hot dogs, and Kingston Pizza is providing pizza. There will also be water on hand for the runners.
The day’s events will include raffles and silent auctions. Southwest Airlines has donated two tickets to anywhere for a raffle prize. Other prizes include Red Sox tickets and golf at Jamestown Country Club. Water bottles, Tshirts and hats will also be available for a donation.
“We want to do something that would make her proud,” Watson said. “We want to honor her. She was a great kid. None of them deserve to have to battle this awful disease. We miss her every day. Everybody was so great when Payton was sick, before she passed away. Payton always said when she was sick that we had to pay it forward for good karma.”
The Watsons have also set up a website for people interested in learning more: PaytonsPace.org. The race will begin at 1 p.m. The course starts and ends at Fort Getty.