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Stories of Donation

Brittney Payton

As the youngest child of legendary Chicago Bears star Walter Payton, Brittney was born the same year her father led his team to the 1985 Super Bowl victory. As a result of her father’s untimely death, Brittney grew to become an advocate for organ/tissue donation, along with her mother Connie and brother, Jarrett. The Payton family has partnered with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office on numerous occasions to promote organ/tissue donation via public service announcements and speaking engagements. Since graduating from DePaul University in 2008, Brittney and her family worked tirelessly to encourage organ/tissue donation throughout the states. Brittney currently co-hosts the show “Chicago’s Best” on WGN and works for the Big 10 Network.

Mikahla Thornton

Mikahla is a very active young lady who received a heart transplant when she was just 9 years old. Born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, her family knew that she would one day need a heart transplant to live. By age 3, she was in heart failure, and by age 9, a heart transplant was her only option. She was unable to participate in simple activities most kids take for granted, such as physical education class, swimming, bike riding or simply walking more than 30 feet at a time. Mikahla's friends would have to push her in a stroller from class to class due to shortness of breath and chest pains. Her failing heart even made it impossible for Mikahla to climb the stairs in her home by herself.

On April 5, 2007, hope for a better life became a reality when she received a new heart through the generosity of an organ donor. Just a few short months later, Mikahla was back home and finally living a healthy life. She could be spotted volunteering at organ/tissue donor registries throughout central Illinois.

For the one-year anniversary of her transplant, Mikahla and her friends organized a donor drive in front of her town’s Wal-Mart, where they signed up donors and face-painted organ donor ribbons for kids. Recently, Mikahla was one of the featured speakers at the Peoria Sing For Life celebration for National Donor Sabbath. She brought the congregation to their feet with her moving speech. These days Mikahla volunteers at community events and donor registration tables, where she inspires people with her donor story. She is now an active teen who enjoys her newfound hobbies, including biking, swimming and cheerleading. She’s a teen on a mission to save lives through the miracle of organ donation.