Eight-year-old Payton Tumbiolo appeared excited yet slightly suspicious as she arrived at Inspiration Park, a community playground just south of Shaw and west of the 99.
Despite living in Clovis, Payton’s friends, family and teacher had also driven all the way out to this unfamiliar park on a sunny Thursday afternoon.
“Why’s everybody here?” she asked.
Unbeknownst to Payton, she was about to receive the ultimate surprise: a Littlescoot mobility scooter specifically designed for little people and customized for her height. Payton was born with dwarfism, a medical condition that can make walking more of a challenge.
“Payton saw the scooter at the LPA (Little People of America) convention two years ago in San Diego. A little boy had his and she rode on it, and she’s always wanted one ever since,” Amanda Tumbiolo, Payton’s mother, says. “It’s not for school, but it’s for things like travel and shopping. She hates shopping because her legs get tired.”
After the local news stations put a microphone on Payton and began following her around with cameras, she could tell something was going on, but continued climbing around the playset with her friends.
Once the Littlescoot was taken out of the box and set up, Payton’s friends stood in front of the scooter to hide it for the surprise. The group stepped aside for the big reveal.
A huge grin spread across Payton’s face — but instead of hopping on the shiny new scooter, she exhibited an act of selflessness that made it clear why so many people care about her so much.
“Hey Logan, what about you try it first?” asked.
Logan Tumbiolo, Payton’s brother, got the first ride. Soon after, Payton whizzed around Inspiration Park with ease as she learned how to maneuver the Littlescoot.
Two local charitable organizations worked together to deliver this special moment for Payton — Able Advocates and Sweet Nectar Society teamed up to purchase the scooter after getting to know the Tumbiolo family on a personal level.
“I’ve known Payton for a few years now. I met her mom Amanda at one of our events,” said Katrina Oh, president of Able Advocates. “Able Advocates has an equipment closet. Most equipment is for families waiting for insurance to cover it or families that have been denied [equipment] by insurance. Amanda was the one who sent in the application for the Littlescoot.”
Able Advocates’ goal is to enhance the quality of life for Central Valley special needs children while also easing the burden on parents struggling to navigate through the complex world of medical care and insurance. Since insurers consider the scooter a luxury item, families of persons with disabilities oftentimes cannot afford to purchase the devices out of pocket. For instance, Payton’s much-needed scooter costs $3,000.
“We just love this family so much and we’re so happy this scooter will help her get around,” said Brittany Wilbur, Sweet Nectar Society president and co-founder.
Sweet Nectar Society is a local nonprofit that was founded in 2012 with the mission of offering free photography sessions for children with disabilities, serious illnesses or injuries. Payton was one of Sweet Nectar Society’s “Sweeties” — one of the numerous children photographed to help raise awareness about her disability. Wilbur took her skills as a photographer and joined forces with fellow photographer Carrie Anne Miranda to form this unique organization that gives a positive experience to special needs families.
Much like Sweet Nectar Society’s Focus program that highlights specific illnesses and disabilities, Inspiration Park was chosen as the backdrop for Payton’s scooter surprise to showcase everything the park has to offer.
“Inspiration Park is a great park for children with disabilities,” says Wilbur.
Inspiration Park’s wheelchair-accessible swing donated by Able Advocates is the first of its kind in Fresno; the park also features inclusive play activities such as the AeroGlider, which allows wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users to rock back-and-forth on the same ride together. Inspiration Park is one of the first parks in California that is built specifically for total accessibility rather than after-the-fact accessibility additions to existing parks.
From the Splash Pad mini water park with an electronic wheelchair exchange station to the baseball field with wheelchair-friendly turf, Inspiration Park has loads to offer families of handicapped kids on its eight-acre property.
But for Payton Tumbiolo, Inspiration Park will be remembered as the place where family and friends gave her the gift of a lifetime.
“I feel loved,” Payton said.