LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In May, Lakewood Ranch couple Patrick and Holly Wright were asked by Lakewood Ranch Medical Center chief executive officer Jim Wilson if the play area in the hospital's soon-to-be pediatric unit could be named after their daughter, Payton.
The Wrights were humbled and happily accepted.
When their daughter was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer at age 4, the Wrights founded the Payton Wright Foundation to support pediatric brain cancer research and other families struggling with the disease. On May 29, 2007, 5-year-old Payton lost her fight against the disease.
Since her passing the Wrights have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the foundation.
Though the pediatric unit is still under construction, Patrick Wright and friend Steven Hopkins delivered $2,200 worth of toys for Payton's Playroom Wednesday for the six-suite pediatric unit. The truckloads of toys included Wii video game systems, one for each suite, video games, board games, baby dolls, stuffed animals, musical toys and lifestyle play sets, including a hospital.
"We've been anticipating this for months now," Patrick Wright said.
"We'll keep funding it."
Many of the toys will serve a therapeutic purpose.
"It helps them cope," said Tanya Prete, the child life specialist at Lakewood Ranch Medical. Prete accompanied Wright and Hopkins during the purchase of toys.
"Play time helps them explore their worries and it's how they understand things," Prete said. "It reveals their fears. It helps to normalize their environment because hospitals can be very scary."
The toys were purchased by Hopkins, a longtime friend of the Wright family. Hopkins pledged to buy $4,000 worth of toys, but because the Wrights have received several toys from people across the country who support their cause, it was decided to delay purchasing more items.
"Anything for the kids," said Hopkins, who owns The Affordable Group, a heating and air conditioning company in the Manatee area. "To be associated with the foundation and to have it named after Payton, I love doing it."
The suites in the pediatric unit will include refrigerators, flat-screen television and showers. In addition to Payton's Playroom, the unit will feature a parent retreat center, an area where parents can work or relax. The Wrights were consulted regarding the design of the unit.
The hospital will host an open house for the new pediatric unit 5:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 17. Currently, pediatric patients in need of extensive care at Lakewood Ranch Medical are transported to the nearest children's hospitals. The hospital will also add a pediatrician in the emergency room. An estimated 25 percent of emergency room patients at Lakewood Ranch Medical are pediatric patients.
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center will subcontract the pediatricians through Sheridan Healthcorp Inc.
Forever Frogs, a line of custom-made bags for children and adults created by Holly Wright and friend Dina Haugstatter, whose daughter was Payton's best friend, are available in the hospital's gift shop. The frog was Payton's symbol of hope during chemotherapy.
"An honor and legacy for Payton," Patrick Wright said. "That's the main thing."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams