Ten-year-old Payton Allen and her sister Samantha have no trouble managing the climbing walls at Dallas Rocks.
Watching them glide easily from one climbing hold to the next you would never guess that Payton has a leaky heart valve. Or that when she was six months old, she had open heart surgery.
Her parents were told she might not make it.
Payton's father, Chad Allen, remembers the day well. "At the time, doctors did not know what age she was going to live to," he said. "They didn't even know if she was going to make it through the surgery."
Don't tell Payton she can't do something. She's been defying the odds since birth.
Even so, the struggles of recovery aren’t lost on her.
When she was five, Payton first decided she wanted to give back to the surgeon who saved her life.
Her first fundraiser was a read-a-thon sponsored by her family and friends. The next year, she swam laps for funding.
Now she's scaling walls, and she's pretty good.
Payton joined a rock-climbing team in Dallas. Her younger sister, Samantha, climbs with her. The two are raising money for the Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.
It’s now been four years since the project first began with reading, and so far the girls have donated nearly $15,000.
The money goes toward Dr. Hall and Susie's Art Cart. Dr. Hall is the surgeon who saved Payton's life.
The art "cart" is now an art "room," and it provides patients and families with a distraction from the everyday aliments of recovery.
The Allen sisters are active in Rachel's Challenge at their McKinney school. They've seen first-hand how giving back can create a chain reaction.
"Rachel was always trying to give back to everybody and trying to help everyone out, And we're trying to help out the hospital," Payton said, adding she believes the chain reaction is evident through the acts of others — the friends, family, and complete strangers who have joined in.
"It makes you feel good. You know that you've been successful. It's really a great feeling," she said.
The two sisters will hold their final fundraiser of the year during a Climb-a-Thon at Dallas Rocks on September 18.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. A day pass costs $15, with half of that cost donated to to the Dr. Hall and Susie's Art Cart program.