By Angela Higginbotham

In 2011, sweet Hayden Chadwell was born at just 35 weeks gestation. Weighing only four pounds, Hayden underwent a surgery for a rare condition called choanal atresia and he received a CAT scan that showed a blood spot on the brain. At that time, doctors were not concerned about the blood spot. A week later after Hayden’s surgery, he was given clearance to go home and then complications occurred. The blood spot on the brain had not dissolved as expected and Hayden suffered from a stroke. With only a 1 percent survival rate, Hayden spent 82 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Professionals told Hayden’s parents, Toni and Scott Chadwell, that Hayden would never eat on his own, breathe on his own, think, or hear.

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Today, Hayden is six years old and is enrolled in PedsCare/Hospice of Northeast Florida, a palliative care program for children with life-limiting serious illness/medical fragility. He receives 24-hour care from his parents, family and other caregivers. Receiving occupational, physical, speech, feeding, vision, assistive technology, and music therapy, Hayden is a happy little boy who brings love and light to everyone that has the opportunity to be around him.

Hayden’s mother, Toni Chadwell, a former theatre management professional, is passionate about spreading love and support for others following the same journey as she and her family.

“It’s very hard to know that Hayden wasn’t born this way, but one thing that I’ve learned most is that everyone has a story — so just be kind,” Chadwell said. “We love our community and just want to help educate and empower others. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Hayden shows love for his family and friends, especially his eight-year-old brother Evan and his fur babies. He is responsive with smiles; he loves music, going to the pool, feeling the wind on his face, and being close to nature. Hayden and his family live in Julington Lakes and he attends Cunningham Creek Elementary school three days a week.

The Team Hayden organization was created not only to show the amazing joys and triumphs of Hayden, but valuable effort is put into educating and advocating for other families in a similar situation.

“We have a huge community of special needs kids — 8,500 within our corridor. We hope to help the community understand that it’s okay to be different,” Chadwell said. “Through Team Hayden, we’ve been able to create support for other families and build a bridge with therapists and doctors to provide services for these kids, not only in our community but throughout the United States.”

In addition to involvement with many other organizations and events, Team Hayden is heavily active with Field of Dreams of St. Johns County, an organization of 150 kids who come together to enjoy America’s favorite pastime — baseball. A fundraiser is currently being held to build an all accessible playground at the Field of Dreams. A $600,000 goal is being raised through craft funding and private donations. Hayden will also be a model in the upcoming Wolfson Children’s Hospital Antique Art and Fashion show.

Visit for more information on Team Hayden or to offer support.


Photo courtesy Roberto Gonzalez.


The Chadwell family

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