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Celebration of Champions

Benefiting Texas Children’s Cancer Center

Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s cast of Community and Patient Champions walked the Runway for a Cure at the eighth annual Celebration of Champions fashion presentation and luncheon. The event, emceed by Fox 26’s Melissa Wilson, lauded a group of outstanding community leaders and heroic young cancer survivors, who all wore the season’s ensembles for work and play provided by fashion retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s.

Fighting for a Dream

Aspire-Champions-Incopy-Photo-650An afternoon at the ballet was all it took for a little redheaded girl, all starry-eyed and freckle-faced, to chart the course for her life. After that performance of The Nutcracker, Peyton Richardson, then three years old, poured herself into ballet, practicing tirelessly and envisioning herself on the world’s great stages.

But early in 2015, Peyton’s dream seemed in jeopardy. She was lethargic. She was losing weight. Then a diagnosis came: acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). But despite the diagnosis, a fire still burned inside Peyton, something Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, an ALL expert and director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Long-Term Survivor Program, could see immediately.

“I could tell right from the beginning that Peyton was quite the spirit,” Dr. Dreyer said. “She’s so artistic and poised.”

Peyton’s road to recovery was a long one, with eight months of aggressive chemotherapy followed by three more years of treatments. None of that stopped her from walking proudly down the runway as a cancer survivor at Celebration of Champions.

“Ballet is harder than cancer. Cancer is temporary. I’m not going to let cancer take ballet away from me.” – Peyton Richardson

And she didn’t stop there. Not even cancer could make Peyton give up on her dream. She jumped back into ballet classes and into the eighth grade. That indomitable spirit prompted Dr. Dreyer to recommend Peyton’s participation in a contest for children with cancer sponsored by Northwestern Mutual. Applicants were asked to submit videos in which they tell their story and then describe their idea of a great adventure. The winner would have that adventure adapted as the design for a Rose Parade float.

On New Year’s Day, Peyton’s dream came to life as she and her family sat atop a custom-built parade float, featuring an intricately carved music box inlaid with more than 10,000 pink roses and a 15-foot tall ballerina dancing “en pointe” among the world’s great cityscapes. Peyton herself was dressed in a custom Tiffany blue dress, handmade by the costumers at the Houston Ballet.

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