On New Year’s Day, 13-year old Peyton Richardson and her family will ride on a float at the 127th Rose Parade for Northwestern Mutual, the presenting sponsor for the 2016 Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, CA. The theme of this year’s parade is Find your Adventure.
Peyton, who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in January 2015, is an aspiring ballerina who dreams of traveling around the world to visit the greatest ballet companies and to take a class with each of their principal dancers.
When Dr. Zoann Dreyer, her doctor at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, introduced her to Northwestern Mutual’s video contest, Peyton jumped at the opportunity to share her greatest adventure. Using her mother’s cell phone, she and her mom produced a video at home in their backyard.
After receiving numerous submissions from across the country, Northwestern Mutual selected Peyton’s video. Her greatest adventure and powerful message about not letting leukemia stop her from dreaming big are the inspiration for Northwestern Mutual’s float design aimed at raising awareness about childhood cancer.
“Cancer can take my hair. Cancer can take my school. Cancer can take some friends, but cancer is not going to take ballet,” said Carrie Richardson, as she recalled her daughter’s video message. “It was so powerful that Northwestern Mutual’s contest selection team fell in love with her.”
With the help of the Richardson family, Northwestern Mutual unveiled its float design that Peyton inspired for the 2016 Rose Parade during a special event at Texas Children’s Cancer Center on December 3, which also included a $25,000 check presentation from Northwestern Mutual to the Cancer Center.
“The name of the float is Dancing into Adventure,” Peyton said. “The swans have gold cancer ribbons around their necks because gold is childhood cancer awareness. On the music box with the ballerina, there’s the Australian ballet, the New York City ballet and the Royal Ballet. Those are the landmarks where I want to visit.”
The float will also be decorated with red roses that will be placed in green vials and affixed to the float. The vials contain signatures from Texas Children’s patients and their families. Everyone who signed the vials can “ride” on the float with Peyton.
“It’s really this link together through Peyton and Northwestern Mutual to bring awareness to childhood cancer and the need for research funds, and really to show that children with cancer can live and survive and have wonderful and meaningful lives,” Dreyer said. “There is a huge message in that float.”
Besides helping to design the float, Peyton will wear a beautiful Tiffany blue costume at the Rose Parade assembled by the Houston Ballet’s lead costume designer.
With just days away until her greatest adventure comes alive on national television, Peyton’s excitement is building.
“Once we are on the plane and we land, I think I am going to be like, “Wow, this is really happening. I’m going to be in the Rose Parade,” Peyton said. “I can’t wait.”
Neither can her mom.
“For us to be there, it’s like the end of a very long and hard year for her and our family,” Carrie said. “We’re very excited.”
Watch Peyton and her family ride on the Northwestern Mutual float in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. The parade will be broadcast on NBC at 10 a.m.