Peyton Madden has lived his life in darkness — literally. He has to in order to survive.
The boy from El Dorado, Kansas is just like any other, with one major difference. While other children go out and play carelessly in the sun, Peyton can’t without taking many precautions. His true freedom comes at night.
At three years old, Peyton was diagnosed with xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder that causes extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet rays. In a nutshell, he’s allergic to sunlight.
Peyton’s condition prevents his skin from repairing itself after being exposed to UV rays. Any damage he sustains is cumulative and has a high chance of causing skin cancer. That’s why Peyton’s parents taught him to fear the sun — it can kill him.
As you can imagine, living with such a condition can get pretty lonely. Peyton wants to go outside, enjoy himself, and see other people without having to shield his body in layers of protective clothing, but feeling the sun directly on his skin will always be out of the question.
Fortunately, feeling loved by his community is not.
In 2017, El Dorado residents rallied to surprise the then 11-year-old Peyton with his own special night turned day. Partnering with the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the town organized a big celebration in his honor, complete with performers, firetrucks, and breakfast food. They even had a school marquee and banners made proclaiming, “Good Morning, Peyton!”
When Peyton rode up on his bike and saw the festivities, he couldn’t believe it. Everyone was cheering his name. This was all for him. And he didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
Peyton was finally surrounded by people, including Mayor Vince Haines! He couldn’t stop smiling.
When he jumped into the municipal pool with his friends, he didn’t worry at all. He was too busy having fun, with absolutely nothing tainted by the fear of sunlight.
That day, something changed for Peyton. Sure, nothing about his health was different. But now he knows how much his neighbors care — and that means so much. “It makes me feel loved and appreciated,” he said. No matter what hardships he’ll face in the future, he can always take comfort in that knowledge.
Watch as Peyton gets a “day” to remember in the video below. Share to brighten others’ days as well.
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