Dayton, matched with the University of Michigan Volleyball team, is eight years old and from Adrian, MI. Dayton lives with Spina Bifida but in no way lets that stop her from being the bright, spunky young girl that she is.
Dayton signed with the Wolverines in September of 2022 and has been involved in games, practices, media shoots, team banquets, and much more, including many events with the other Team IMPACT teams, matches, and families at Michigan. In February, Dayton celebrated her eighth birthday at the bowling alley with the whole volleyball team.
Her favorite color is rainbow and she loves to laugh with her teammates. Dayton is often a girl of few words, but when she’s around her teammates — especially her best friend, senior Kendall Murray — Dayton knows she is right where she belongs.
We caught up with Dayton and her mom, Natasha, to hear in their words how it feels to get in the game.
What does “team” mean to you?
What does “being a girl” mean to you?
What does Kendall mean to you?
She is my bestie. I think of her as a big sister.
Tell me about the friends you’ve made at Michigan.
They all make me feel loved and like I’m a Wolverine.
Tell us about your favorite day with your team.
My Signing Day was my favorite day because it was the day I officially became part of the volleyball team. They made it about me and made me feel special.
Tell us how it feels to be part of the Michigan volleyball team.
It feels like I’m accepted and included.
What changes have you seen in Dayton since she joined the volleyball team?
When she first met the team, she was shy and has become more outgoing and open.
What does this experience mean to your family?
Just to be able to see Dayton be part of something that we know she won’t be able to do in the future means everything to us, not just during volleyball season but in the off-season when the girls take time out of their personal lives to include her in other activities.
As a parent, tell us how it feels seeing Dayton with her teammates.
It is emotionally heartwarming. Dayton couldn’t have been placed with a better group of girls! Each girl has their own relationship with her, and they all include her and interact with her and treat her as a little sister. Even during off-season, they make time to get together with her as a team.
Michigan often has events that bring together the Team IMPACT families across all teams. Tell us about the relationships your family has made with other Team IMPACT families at Michigan.
It has been awesome to meet other Team IMPACT families and to see how their teams interact with their teammates; to meet other families and see how they overcome medical issues; to be able to relate with other families who might go through the same struggles as we do as a family; and to be able to interact with people who know what our daily life is like.
Tell us about a difficult time that was a little bit easier because of the team.
Dayton had been in and out of the hospital for a couple weeks not feeling the greatest, and the girls would send Get Well videos. [Team IMPACT] gives us something to do and look forward to as a family that isn’t related to medical appointments.
Above and beyond her being part of the volleyball team, all of the Michigan student-athletes love and support Dayton and interact with her anytime we go out to watch and support another U of M athletic event. It has been amazing to watch. We often joke that our seven-year-old is a celebrity because student-athletes we have never met before come up and talk to her on a first-name basis because her teammates talk so highly of her. We are beyond grateful that Team IMPACT gave Dayton this opportunity to meet and interact with so many student-athletes.