Less than a year after a tragedy, a Wichita Falls family is moving toward healing. Twenty-three-month old Peyton Hood loved going to the lake more than anything else.
"She was a very outdoorsy little girl. She loved flowers, she loved butterflies, she loved all the colors of spring," said her aunt, Tammy Reece.
But last August was the last time she got to visit her family's cabin at Possum Kingdom Lake. As she climbed down from their playground, a rattlesnake bit her twice. She passed away just a few hours later.
"She knew no stranger, she loved everyone. She was the best hugger," Tammy said.
The River Bend Nature Center in Wichita Falls has been wanting to make a butterfly room that was more up-close and intimate. A visit from Peyton's grandparents provided the perfect opportunity.
"When we opened up the door here, butterflies just flew out. They said Peyton loved butterflies, so this room is literally a celebration of Peyton's life," said River Bend Executive Director Liz Martin.
Thus, with help from local grants, Peyton's Place was born. A chrysalis cabinet that sits empty as of Friday will be loaded with butterflies on the verge of hatching Saturday. Peyton's family members will release one hundred butterflies at a special opening ceremony tomorrow.
"Children that come here every day, adults, tourists, visitors, and they will be experiencing that and reflect on Peyton's life," Martin said.
Peyton's Aunt Tammy knows her niece would love sharing the memorial with others. We asked her what she thought would be the first thing Peyton would do if she were able to see Peyton's Place.
"She would run down that walkway, come in here, and smell a flower," Tammy said.
But instead, we can assume Peyton will be watching the butterflies from above.
The official opening of Peyton's Place will be Saturday from 2-4. The exhibit room is in the far corner of the Ruby N. Priddy Conservatory.