CLAYPOOL – Family members were unsure of what to expect when they organized a neighborhood parade for nine-year-old Payton Slaymaker, who is battling a brain tumor and begins her second round of radiation Thursday.
They figured to see some folks from the church and from Claypool Elementary and friends. But in an era of a pandemic, how many would actually show up?
Turns out, plenty.
On Wednesday night, April 8, hundreds and hundreds of vehicles – far too many to count over a 30-minute period – drove past Payton and her family who assembled in front of a relative’s home along CR 800S, southeast of Claypool.
Vehicles gathered beforehand at the Claypool Elementary parking lot and then headed east and then south before turning east onto CR 800S.
The parade was loud, festive and sometimes emotional.
Many in vehicles tossed big bags of candy and single candies in front of the family. Somebody sprayed silly string at the family and another tooted away on a horn as she passed by. Some presented gift bags and money as they filed by and yelled words of encouragement.
Be strong, we love you, and fear is a liar were themes echoed by many with words and posters.
The parade began with numerous police and fire vehicles with sirens blaring. That was followed by some classic cars, a long stretch of jeeps and hundreds of families in cars and pickups.
One woman with a group of motorcyclists stopped, got off her bike, pulled out a white teddy bear and handed it to the family after spraying disinfectant on it. After she got back on her bike, she looked at Payton and appeared to mouth the words, “Love you.”
During the entire parade, Payton and her family waved to friends and offered words of thanks.
Sally Johnson, a bus driver who used to drive Payton to summer school, lives down the road.
She described Payton as a sweetheart with a great outlook.
“You go to uplift her and she uplifts you,” Johnson said.
She was not surprised at the turnout.
“Everybody’s rooting for her,” she said.
Payton’s father appeared stunned after the final car had passed by.
“We were blown away. What a great community we have. That was a whole lot more than what we expecting,” Andrew said.
Payton was diagnosed with the disease in the summer of 2019.
Andrew said Payton’s mobility and vision have diminished but said she could see the vehicles and certainly heard the cheers, sirens and horns.
The parade was the second major event for the girl. A fundraiser last year attracted nearly 1,000 people.
A parade was a safe way to gather plenty of people together to wish her well in a safe way.
“Even after all the virus stuff is done, I think stuff like this needs to continue,” Andrew said.