DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Addison Payne decided she wanted her 14th birthday this year to be a celebration bigger than herself. In lieu of birthday gifts, the Sidney teen asked family and friends to donate toys and games in honor of her baby brother, Josseph.
“His birthday is really close to mine — 2 weeks apart,” Addison said. “I just thought, hey, maybe he could have a little birthday with mine.”
In 2012, when Wendy Mitchell-Payne was pregnant with Addison’s youngest brother, doctors warned the Payne family the unborn baby’s lungs and kidneys weren’t developing and he was unlikely to survive after birth.
Josseph Payne lived for just 71 minutes.
“I think about him everyday,” said Addison, who was eight at the time. “I love him and I try to do as much as I can to try to help him.”
Wendy Mitchell-Payne added, “We knew we needed to do something positive in his name to kind of keep our family moving forward.”
The tribute they chose was inspired by another hospital stay several years before Josseph’s short life.
In 2006, the family’s second child Jarrett was suffering severe symptoms from an undiagnosed milk allergy and checked into Dayton Children’s Hospital for intensive testing.
To avoid a long and expensive commute from Sidney, the family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Dayton. Addison was two and her parents said they were amazed by the unexpected attention shown to their oldest child.
“They brought us to this closet and offered this toy and blanket to our daughter,” said Addison’s mother, recalling the RMHC toy closet. “It was this absolutely humbling and sad –but also amazing– moment because we realized she really had been neglected or forgotten about while we were focusing on her brother… I always remembered that.”
Addison added, “The Ronald McDonald House helped me, helped them out. It just made their life a lot easier with Jarrett.”
The moment came into focus again after Josseph passed away and the family turned their grief into gratitude.
They now regularly contribute to the charity’s mission and created a nonprofit called Josseph’s Tears of Joy, which helps stock the toy closet and provides families staying at RMHC – Dayton with gifts over the holidays.
When RMHC remodeled recently, they renamed the toy closet “Josseph’s Gift” in his honor.
“So many amazing families come through here, in and out. Hopefully they all get to take their kids home, but occasionally that doesn’t happen,” said Mitchell-Payne. “For him to be honored in this way makes us feel really, really thankful.”
Addison and her three brothers celebrate Josseph’s birthday every year. This year, she wanted to mark the occasion on her own birthday by asking guests to bring donations for her baby brother’s closet instead of gifts for herself.
She said she hopes Josseph’s short life will continue to make a lasting difference in the lives of other families.
“Even though it was 71 minutes, we’re helping him do something with his life, also making our lives better and hopefully helping others make their lives better,” Addison said.
To learn more about the Ronald McDonald House and how to volunteer or donate, click here.