GILBERT- Gilbert Middle School’s Payton Ellis received the surprise of his life during Gilbert’s home basketball game on 8th grade night.
Payton’s father, Eddie Ray Ellis, was severely injured in a mining accident that left him nearly paralyzed from the neck down. He was admitted to CAMC on August 3, 2013 and there he was in ICU for seven days. On August 13, 2013 he was released from ICU and moved to the rehabilitation floor of the hospital. He remained there until mid January, then moved to a hotel near the hospital in order to keep receiving rehabilitation services. This event has kept him from attending any of Payton’s school activities for his entire 8th grade year. In previous years, Payton’s father rarely missed any event in Payton’s life.
Payton’s mother, Tina Ellis, and sister, Kalenia Ellis, made several attempts in finding a way to have her husband transported to Gilbert Middle School for Payton’s last home game. All attempts failed, until she contacted Kaitlyn Lester of Delberton, whose father, Barry Lester had a handicap accessible van that suited Eddie Ray’s needs. They were able to bring him from Charleston to Gilbert without Payton having any idea.
Gilbert’s boys basketball coach and several others knew about the surprise and were all able to keep it a secret. Eddie Ray was brought into the gym while Payton was kept occupied in another part of the school. Since it was 8th grade night, each 8th grade student was introduced and escorted in by their parents at the beginning of the game. Before Payton was escorted out by his mother and sister they asked him if he was going to cry, he told them,” No, it’s just 8th grade night.” When it came to Payton’s turn, parents and students stood around Eddie Ray, hiding him until Payton’s name was announced. When he spotted his father across the gym, Payton’s eyes filled with tears of joy, along with nearly everyone in the gym. Payton said, “I was so happy to see my dad there, I was so surprised. It really shocked me when I saw everyone stand and applaud for us. I’m thankful for everyone that was there for me.”
Payton’s family wishes to thank everyone that helped make this possible, especially Kaitlyn and Barry Lester, without them, this would not have been possible.