Paralympian Dani Calls Shriners Children's a Place Where Miracles Happen
Dani knows how important it is to see people with disabilities accomplish incredible things.
Growing up in Boise, Idaho, she wasn’t exposed to many kids who had a limb difference, like she did. Going to Shriners Children’s when she was 6 months old was a pivotal moment, leading to a lifelong association. “When I went to Shriners Children’s as a kid,” said Dani, “and participated in their therapeutic play group program, I saw other people who were missing limbs, and as a toddler, I think that’s important.”
The therapeutic play groups facilitate social activities incorporating therapeutic goals for kids with similar disabilities. The goal is often to allow the children to feel successful and supported. “It was especially significant for my mom,” said Dani, who noticed how important it was for her mother to be able to connect with other parents of children with limb differences.
As Dani grew, Shriners Children’s continued to support her development by providing prostheses that helped her play certain sports like riding a bike, fishing and horseback riding. “The prostheses helped me be more comfortable with my difference and allowed me to be in public without people staring.”
My time with Shriners Children’s helped mold me into the person that I am, and they showed me that there are possibilities for me. They helped my family know I would have success in life no matter what that path was - career, sports or whatever. They helped mold me into a strong, confident person and allowed me to pursue activities I loved!
The 25-year-old now takes on the incredibly ambitious goal of competing in the 2022 Winter Paralympics on the heels of competing in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. After competing in track in Tokyo, she now sets her sights high, competing in Nordic skiing and the biathlon event in Beijing, which includes Nordic skiing and shooting competitions.
Now that she looks back over the years, she encourages kids with disabilities to look for opportunities to do more. “There are way more opportunities than you might think for adaptive athletes,” said Dani. “To kids like me, I want you to know Shriners Children’s will help you build your confidence and take on whatever you want to in life, sports, jobs or college!” She emphasizes that children with disabilities can do anything an able-bodied kid can – it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it happen and connecting with the right resources. “There will be plenty of opportunities for you, despite what you may feel in this moment!”
Dani is also an early member of the Patient Alumni Network. The Patient Alumni Network was formed in 2022 as part of Shriners Children's 100th Anniversary Celebration. The goal of this new network is to connect former patients with each other and provide opportunities for them to share their stories and accomplishments with patients, Shriners, donors and the public.
“Miracles truly happen at Shriners Children’s," said Dani. "I was lucky enough to witness people's lives being changed forever at Shriners Children’s – least of all, myself.”