Kindness and compassion: not only are these characteristics important in society today, but they also describe a very courageous young boy who was fascinated by animals of all species and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian one day so he could take care of them. Kindness, compassion, and Peyton James’ love of animals are also the driving force behind the initiative established in his honor, Kindness Matters, which is creating a scholarship for veterinary students at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
Peyton’s life had many challenges from the very beginning, as he was born nine weeks premature weighing only 2.5 pounds, and requiring his first days to be spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The pure oxygen he received in the NICU led to discolored enamel on his teeth, but Peyton was still a handsome young man with beautiful red hair and a striking smile. He wore glasses and was diagnosed with ADHD, and possibly because of this combination of characteristics, became the target of bullying from other children. Peyton and his mother, Jackie, spent much of his childhood exploring the world around him, reading, playing video games, and watching YouTube videos, but none of these activities equaled the passion he had for animals—especially cats.
His connection to animals ran deep, possibly because animals do not judge or bully. This unconditional acceptance and love of humans by animals was very important to Peyton.
He was also a huge fan of the University of Texas Longhorns, and was a little disappointed to learn that to become a veterinarian and study in Texas, he would have to attend Texas A&M University—home to the only college of veterinary medicine in the state
However, after attending a Vet School Open House at the CVM in 2013, Peyton found a place he could call home. Peyton and his mother discovered the excellent reputation the CVM established for being warm, welcoming, and accepting to everyone, which was very important to both of them.
After Peyton’s death, his mother was determined to spread the message that meant so much to Peyton—kindness matters. She began a foundation of the same name and developed a weekly Kindness Matters Challenge that offers an easy, specific task for people to complete in an effort to make the world a better, kinder place. The scholarship established at the CVM also honors Peyton’s special fondness for cats and the Longhorns. Students eligible for scholarship funds should be members of the Student Chapter of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and should have an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas.
Just as Kindness Matters is working to change the dialogue between people and to increase awareness of the negative impact of bullying, it is also hoping to make a difference in the lives of students who will one day care for animals as much as Peyton.