On June 16, 2001, David and Jacki James welcomed their son Peyton into the world. He arrived two months early, and weighed a little over two pounds. The NICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital became his home for the first month and a half of his life. During that time he began to grow and put on weight. Despite all he had been through, he was in remarkably good health. He began to take formula from a bottle, his burps would have made a sailor blush, and his tell-tale red hair began to grow in. After thirty-three days, David and Jacki were able to take Peyton home.
The first few years of Peyton’s life were about as normal as they could be. Like any first child, he was over protected, spoiled rotten, and loved more than he knew. He suffered through the usual ailments of childhood with an emphasis on ear infections. He had his bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes. His first word was “Dada”. He learned to walk and then run. He celebrated his first Christmas and Easter. He turned one, then two, then three, then four etc…
At five, Peyton began kindergarten. He loved it and everything about it. He was always the smallest kid in his class, but made up for his lack of size with enthusiasm. He quickly learned his letters and numbers, proceeded to words, and learned to read well before many of his classmates. He had a lead role in his class’ production of Little Red Riding Hood, and stole the show. He loved to read and would often beg to go to the library for story time and to check out books about animals.
About the time second grade rolled around, troubles began at school. He was teased for his size, his red hair, his glasses, and his discolored teeth (a result of being given pure oxygen earlier in life). Both his mother and father talked to teachers and administrators trying to alleviate the situation the best they could. Peyton dealt with it the best he could, but sometimes his temper would get the best of him, and he would lash out verbally at his tormentors and would have to go to the principal or counselor to calm down.
The bullying didn’t stop with the next school year, or the next, or the next. By the time Peyton had entered 7th grade, he was still a target for the bullies. Not just for his appearance, but once his classmates realized he had a hair trigger, they would do their best to aggravate him in an effort to get him to go off. One girl went so far as to steal the watch his Papa gave him. He was so frustrated that he kicked a sign post and broke his foot.
Life wasn’t all bad for Peyton. He did make new friends, and formed some strong bonds. Both he and his friends all loved science fiction and fantasy. They would spend hours watching Dr. Who and talking about Pokemon and anime. He even had his first girlfriend. Peyton would be starting at a new school for 8th grade. He seemed to be happy at the chance for a new start. He had even started to get taller and fill out, and for the first time since anyone could remember, he was no longer the smallest kid in his class.
Sadly, on October 8, 2014, Peyton came home from a bad day of school, went into his bedroom, and hanged himself. His mother found him, called 911 and began CPR. First responders arrived and continued life saving procedures. They were able to get his heart started again, but he was not breathing on his own. He was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital, and then flown to Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin. Despite the incredible efforts of the medical staff, Peyton, surrounded by his family, was pronounced dead at 12:02 AM on October 13, 2014.
Not wanting his son’s death to be in vain, Peyton’s father, David, began Products 4 Peyton to help collect toiletries and other donations for the Ronald McDonald House. In the summer of 2015, David was contacted by Jill Kubin and Sue Harris with the idea of using Peyton’s name as part of The Peyton Heart Project in order to raise awareness and help prevent suicide.