In The Game Perspective: Payton and Indiana Women’s Basketball

Payton on her IU home court.

When now nine-year-old Payton started noticing scabs on her body in 2021, she and her parents knew something wasn’t right and went to see a doctor. Shortly thereafter, within weeks of her baby sister’s birth, Payton was diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM). JDM is an autoimmune illness where the body reacts abnormally, causing butterfly rashes, joint pain, and inflammation.

Payton’s family and care team moved ahead with treating the disease aggressively, but when they didn’t see the results they were hoping for they started Payton on infusion treatments. While these treatments helped improve Payton’s symptoms, they took a social and emotional toll on her and her family. They found some much needed hope through this very difficult time when Payton’s Child Life Specialist at the hospital introduced her mom, Bobbie, to Team IMPACT.

“When Payton was first diagnosed and beginning treatment with all the medications, we were in a very scary, dreary place. So much sadness. Matt and I were really struggling trying to think of ways to occupy Payton’s mind and just bring sunshine into her life. Receiving the call from Team IMPACT was an answered prayer and a day I’ll never forget.

Bobbie, Payton’s Mom

Payton and her family live in Evansville, IN, and are longtime Indiana University (IU) fans. Her mom, Bobbie, went to Indiana and was a student manager for the Women’s Basketball program, making her daughter’s match with the team in October 2021 even more special. Since being matched, Payton has enjoyed getting to know her teammates and going to games and practices with her family. The program has had a tremendous effect on how Payton manages her diagnosis and her emotional well-being. “Payton’s involvement with the team has really grown her confidence as she feels so much more confident being around new people and crowds,” Bobbie said. “One area where this has helped tremendously is with regard to her ability to speak with doctors and nurses about how she feels, side effects, etc. Previously it was even a struggle for her to make eye contact with adults.”

One of Payton’s favorite parts of her Team IMPACT experience so far is pre-game high fives with her teammates. “She went from not having a big sister to having like 10!” Bobbie said. “I love that she feels adored by all of them. I love that she feels they genuinely care about how she’s doing. I love that she feels her high fives play an instrumental role in them winning, too.”

“She quickly became a part of our IU family.”

– Head Coach Moren

As Indiana begins their journey through this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament, the team knows they are incredibly lucky to once again have Payton and her family as an extra set of teammates and #1 fans to cheer them along. Bobbie feels equally grateful.

“When a diagnosis happens, it doesn’t just affect one person, but the entire family. The silver lining throughout this journey has been the genuine people who have come into our lives to support all of us.”