By Maddy Vitale
Peyton Laricks looked at the crowd of people warming up to run Saturday in Sea Isle and smiled. She was speechless at first, and then she said this; “It’s crazy. I can’t believe it. There are a million people here.”
Maybe not a million, but hundreds of people came to for the annual charity race, named in her honor, Peyton’s Promise 5K run/walk.
Now in its 10th year, the race, which is 3.1 miles, raises money for research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to conquer the potentially fatal birth defect known as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, or CDH.
Peyton, of Sea Isle, was born with CDH and has made a remarkable recovery from the disorder that nearly took her life. Her parents, Debbie and Dustin Laricks, established the Peyton’s Promise foundation, to help other children with CDH. Since then, they have raised thousands of dollars for the cause.
Prior to the race, Peyton got a visit from Sea Isle Mayor Lenny Desiderio.
Not only is she making her mark with her charity race, but she is also the youngest person to hold a key to the city.
Moments before the start of the race, the mayor spoke of what a remarkable and special girl Peyton is, and how much she has overcome. Then he handed her the key to the city, which was met with an eruption of applause.
“You were able to beat all of the odds,” Desiderio told Peyton, who was beaming.
Then it was game time.
Runners lined up and off they went.
About 30 minutes later, in a triumphant feat, Peyton crossed the finish line, participating in the annual race for the second year in a row.
Debbie Laricks put her fist in the air in victory, scooped up her daughter, and gave her a big hug.
Then there was the moment of truth.
“I told her I would let her know what her time was last year, but only after she finished the race,” Debbie Laricks explained.
Peyton bested her 2017 time.
To that, the remarkable girl smiled and took a very big, deserved drink, of chilled water. Then Peyton, her mom and dad and big brother Dusty, 12, who also ran the race, waited for the littlest Laricks, 7-year-old Quinn, to cross the finish line.
In addition to the charity run, the Laricks also hold an annual fundraiser at the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City to benefit Peyton’s Promise, another event that draws donations and community support.
To date, Peyton’s Promise has raised about $400,000 through the run and the benefit, with the funds going to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Debbie Laricks said as soon as Peyton was born with the life-threatening lung disease, family and friends were there to show their support.
“We had an army of people helping us,” she said. “We just said, ‘We need to do something.’”
That was when they created Peyton’s Promise.
Dustin Laricks said it is because of the family’s friends and the community that they are able to make the event such a success.
“That is why we are able to do this,” he said.
The run has become a fun activity some families use to kick off the summer season, Debbie Laricks noted.
Dana Christenson and her son Colton, 13, of Sea Isle, were doing just that.
“This is our first time. Generally, the kids have sports. We wanted to do it before, this year we were able to. It is for a good cause,” Dana Christenson said. “We hope to do it again next year.”
For Bill and Chris McDevitt and their daughter Molly McDevitt, of Sea Isle, they couldn’t think of a better way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning.
“I’ve always wanted to do this run,” Chris McDevitt said.
“It is a big event,” Bill McDevitt said. “It is for a good cause.”
Peyton, who will be going into the fifth grade at Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School in Cape May Court House dances and plays basketball. She is really excited about her latest endeavor. She is going to join the cross country team.
For more information visit www.peytonspromise.com.