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Payton Wright passes away

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

People often ask me why I am so passionate about my fight to raise dollars for the Jimmy V Foundation. One of the big reasons to win the battle against cancer is the toll the disease takes on people. It not only affects the individual victim, but the families as well.

In the past I have written about a story that gripped our community down here in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. It was the story of beautiful little Payton Wright, a gorgeous, courageous little lady who battled the dreaded disease of cancer. It first began a year ago when she complained of pain in her knee. After an MRI of her knee, there was a tumor discovered in her spine. Over the year, the cancer spread.

She fought so hard against a rare form of brain cancer, medulloepithelioma.

Her valiant fight ended on Tuesday when she passed away.

She loved rock and roll, music, and drinking hot tea. She enjoyed visiting the Broken Egg.

It was so heartbreaking to hear she lost her battle. My friends, she has inspired so many with her courage. So many people have been touched by the fight she waged.

Her name will not be forgotten and her spirit will be remembered. She is resting comfortably up in heaven now as God has found a little angel. My heart goes out to her parents, Holly and Patrick, as well as Payton's two sisters, Savanna and Sydney.

I spoke to Patrick on Tuesday night and it was so difficult. What do you say to a dad who just lost one of his loved ones at such a young age? He said it best "I know she is in heaven and at peace."

She endured so much and the cancer had spread to her liver. Doctors said there was nothing more that could be done and she was kept comfortable by the efforts of Tidewell Hospice.

Payton Wright may have lost this battle, but her inspiration will lead to thousands and thousands of dollars towards research. She will affect many youngsters for generations to come as they benefit from her spirit. The medical community will benefit with the necessary dollars.

The Wright family has said that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the V Foundation, care of 1-800-4-JIMMY-V. Our gala next year will honor her name as we put together a research grant so her name will go on forever.

Her funeral will be Saturday at Harvest United Methodist Church.

Help keep Payton Wright's spirit alive as the grant for pediatric cancer research will help the dream of aiding younger kids battling this dreaded disease. Send a donation to the V Foundation to support this grant, c/o Tandem Enterprises, 7810 Mathern Court, Lakewood Ranch, Florida 34202.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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