Local runners gathered Saturday morning to support a Carthage student and his mission to say a special thank you.


When Aubree Santillan, who will be a first grader at Mark Twain this fall, was seven months old, she had open heart surgery. Her older brother, Payton Williams, was five when his sister had her surgery, this year, wanted to say thanks to Children's Mercy Hospital for saving her, and for continuing to save children every day.

Local runners gathered Saturday morning to support a Carthage student and his mission to say a special thank you.

On May 11, The Carthage Press reported sixth grader Payton Williams was organizing a 5K run to raise funds to donate to Children's Mercy in Kansas City, Mo., as a way to say thank you for saving his little sister, Aubree Santillan. His run was held Saturday, and there were 43 participants in the 5K run and a one-mile Fun Run. Payton, who will be a seventh grader this fall at the Carthage Junior High School, said he reached his goal of 40 people.

“This is amazing,” said Carthage Middle School counselor Travis Bolin. “I'm so proud of him.”

Family, friends, classmates and neighbors all had on numbers and smiles for the event.

“This is incredible for a young kid to be thinking about doing this for not only his little sister, but for a whole hospital full of kids,” said Payton's uncle, Robert Oexman, Carthage. “What a great cause – This is a life lesson he'll take for the rest of his life. It's just fantastic.”

Seventh grader Casey Comeau was ready to run to show her support on Saturday.

“He's my friend,” she said of Payton. “It's a nice thing to do.”

The starting line was at the middle school on Centennial Avenue; they went to Grand Avenue, to Chestnut Street to River Street, to 13th Street to Glenwood Place and finished at the middle school.

Winner of the 5K race was Arely Smith, who once attended junior high in what is now the middle school building. She finished the race at 21 min. 12 seconds.

“When I went to school here, Braden McBride told me I should run track – he told me I was good,” she said with a pant after the race. “I've been running ever since.”

Second place went to Brady Beckham with 21 min. 21 seconds, and third went to Payton's dad, Brent Scott with 21 min. 59 seconds.

Hunter Santillan, Payton's brother, took first place in the Fun Run with 8 min. 22 seconds.