Peyton Bono – 20 Under 40 Youth on the Rise

18 | Education: Highland Park High School

As an American Heart Association Teen of Impact, Peyton Bono broke the program’s fundraising record by securing $55,000 for the nonprofit in nine weeks.

She hosted a YMCA community walk, art show, and other events to bring people together and raise money: “I couldn’t have done it without this amazing Park Cities community, who at every event showed up ready to support the cause and hear my journey and story with a heart condition.”

The Highland Park High School senior was born with a congenital heart defect called tricuspid atresia and had two open heart surgeries in infancy.

“Physical activity has always been extremely limited, and growing up disabled isolated me from many of my peers,” Bono said. “It was lonely, being the only disabled child I knew, so I wanted to get involved in survivor spaces and get to know people in the field of cardiology — survivors and doctors alike.”

Bono says the American Heart Association’s reach and influence cannot be overstated as it funds hospitals, encourages research, and promotes healthy living.

Beyond the American Heart Association, Bono is involved with her school’s library, where she managed restoration efforts after a rainstorm destroyed most books in the classics section. She also volunteered with Salman Bhojani’s Texas House campaign in Arlington during her sophomore year and recently graduated from the National Charity League.

Bono will graduate from high school in the spring and then attend the University of Texas, where she will double major in health and history. After undergrad, she plans to attend law school.

“While I predict I’ll be working in health law — making sure more people get the healthcare they need, protecting and funding hospitals, and being a patient advocate all sounds fascinating and fulfilling to me — I’m only 18, and my life could go anywhere,” Bono said.

Who’s your biggest inspiration?

My parents, for paving the way for me and being my greatest supporters, and my little brother, who is just like me in all the ways that count, and whose determination and work ethic inspire me every day.

What advice do you have for other youth wanting to make a difference?

The worst you can hear is “no.” If you want to do something, call people who do it and ask them for advice and opportunities. Taking that first step will always be the hardest part, and when you do it, you’ll find it’s not that hard at all.

What’s a fun fact that someone wouldn’t know about you?

One summer, I ordered from our local Thai restaurant so much that when the employees saw my car pull in, they’d input the order without me even stepping inside (pad kee mow with extra beef).

What (or who) motivated you to get involved in the community? 

I’ve been involved and volunteering through the Highlander National Charity League chapter since middle school, and through that organization have gained exposure to the wealth of opportunity in the Dallas area. I knew of the American Heart Association, and having had experience working with fundraising and organizing through the Bhojani campaign, I was confident I would be able to fulfill their ask of me and exceed any expectations, and this experience would allow me to share my personal story as a disabled teenager and drive awareness about heart health to my community.

What is your favorite local restaurant or shop? 

I’m a Wetzel’s Pretzels addict through and through.

What’s on your bucket list?

Try street food in Singapore, go to the Olympics, and own and read every book in the Penguin Clothbound Classics collection.

What was your “lightbulb moment” that led you to your career?

In September, the American Heart Association flew me up to D.C. to lobby with the Rally for Medical Research to urge an increase in funding to the National Institutes of Health. I had a horrible cold and my feet threatened to break in my heels, but I had never felt so alive. Meeting experts in the medical field, exploring options with policymakers, and seeing the inner gears of our government, I knew that in some capacity I’d be back on Capitol Hill to push for change and that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

Beyond any accolade, the more important parts about me (are) that I love chai lattes (and) reality TV, and I’m currently addicted to Candy Crush.

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