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Local organization makes Christmas possible for transplant families


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IDAHO FALLS — During the holidays, life can be difficult for families experiencing a transplant journey with a loved one.

A local non-profit organization wanted to take the burden off of local transplant families by donating Christmas gifts.

“Our organization is helping five different families this Christmas season,” Paces for Payton President Kim Hawkes says.

Hawkes and other organizers say this is the first year they’ve helped provide gifts for families. Organizers and other volunteers took some 25 names and did personalized shopping for those in need.

“We really wanted to know who they are, what their likes are, (what) their hobbies are so that we could customize and do Christmas really, really good for these kids because they deserve it,” Hawkes says.

Paces for Payton was founded five years ago after Hawkes’ 2-year-old niece Payton experienced heart failure and a heart transplant. Unfortunately, Payton didn’t survive but the organization has continued in her memory.

Payton Morgan in the hospital. | Courtesy images

“The organization was originally started to help out her family…Now we help local Southeast Idaho transplant families that have kids going through a transplant journey,” Hawkes says. “We’ve done school supplies, we’ve helped with medical costs and expenses to get down to Primary Children’s Hospital and back, hotels, and gas for families.”

Each year Paces for Payton holds an annual race to raise funds for transplant families. Hawkes says the main source of funds for the Christmas gifts came from her father’s dying wish. Jeff Newberry had cancer and passed away in August.

“Payton’s grandpa was involved in the organization since the beginning,” Hawkes says. “He asked friends and family to donate money to the Paces for Payton organization.”

The first family to receive a Christmas gift this year were the NewMyers from Rigby. Sadie NewMyer,13, had to undergo surgery for a liver transplant during the Christmas season of 2011.

“Her doctors told us she would have been dead within 24 hours. If she didn’t have her transplant she would be brain dead,” Sadie’s mother, Kim NewMyer, says. “Her transplant came just in time to save her life.”

This summer she had to have additional surgery and has since been recovering.

Gifts for five families donated by the Paces for Payton organization. | Courtesy Kim Hawkes

“My surgery this summer was really hard but afterward, I’m all healed up and I feel like I can handle anything,” Sadie NewMyer says.

The NewMyers say the gifts from Paces for Payton have made a significant impact on their Christmas.

“I took the money I’d been saving for Christmas and used it to pay medical bills, and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” NewMyer says. “How touching it is to know that a family who’s gone through so much, who lost their little baby, would still be willing to help others, and to bring joy. They’re just a miracle to me.”

Sadie’s father, David, adds, “It’s been hard on our family. It’s been hard on our kids, so to see this kind of attention on all of them means more than we can express.”

Hawkes says people are welcome to continue to donate to the Paces for Payton as the cause helps families year round. She also says the community can look forward to the annual race next April.

Find Paces for Payton on Facebook for continuous updates.