For Peyton Franklin, life has not been easy.
The nine-year-old who lives in Yukon, and attends school in Mustang, was born with Williams Syndrome. It is a developmental disorder that affects various parts of the body including her heart and blood vessels.
Her mother, Haley, said that she discovered that Peyton was going to need intestinal surgery while she was still in the womb. Peyton’s first surgery occurred when she was just four days old.
Since then, Peyton has had seven surgeries, including an open-heart surgery when she was just 2 ½ years old.
Her prognosis is good, though she has yearly checkups.
Her father, Josh, said Peyton is a happy girl.
She was even happier Thursday.
Peyton and her family visited Panera Bread in Oklahoma City for a snack, or so Peyton thought.
Peyton soon found out that she was one of three Oklahoma City-area children to be awarded a five-day all-expenses-paid trip to Florida through the Baking Memories 4 Kids Foundation.
The foundation’s founder, Frank Squeo, handed a large Mickey Mouse to Peyton as he told her about the exciting secret that her parents had been keeping for the past few months.
The trip, which the family will take in April, will include visits to Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland, Sea World and other amusement parks in the Orlando area.
At each park, the family will be given passes that gets them to the front of the line for rides.
“It does not get better than this right here. To pull it all off, … it is not the easiest thing. This, right here, is precious,” Squeo said.
Peyton is the fifth child to receive a trip this year. Last year, the organization funded more than 60 trips. In each case, the recipient is a child with severe or terminal health issues.
The families always go to Orlando on their “wish” trips. At the theme parks, they are treated like royalty, he said.
The trips are funded through Panera Bread’s “round-up” program, which asks its customers to round-up their bill to the next whole dollar.
In addition, the foundation sells cookies during November and December at the eateries. Money from the cookie sales goes toward the trips.
The donations help local children.
“We change lives one cookie at a time,” is the theme of the program.
Brian Camey, president of Oklahoma City Bakery, the local Panera Bread franchisee, said the program is a great way to get involved in their customers’ lives.
“We have always had a strong commitment of giving back to our communities. We make lots of donation of products to people with food insecurities, people who are hungry through food pantries. This, really, is just an extension of that,” he said.
Camey said working with Baking Memories 4 Kids is a perfect fit for Panera Bread.
“It seemed like a perfect way for us to leverage our really unique relationship with our customers. … They want to be involved in something as well,” Carney said.
Meanwhile, Squeo said he started the foundation after learning that he had cancer. He said he wanted to do something to help other families who were battling illnesses.
“I knew there was a reason I got my cancer, and a reason I was born. My destiny is to help families like Peyton’s family,” Squeo said.
Peyton was one of three children in the Oklahoma City metro area to be honored Thursday by the foundation.
The others were Chaney Lidia, a 15-year-old who was born with a major heart issues and Down Syndrome; and Carter Earnest, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Carter is four.