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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!
Dani, Salt Lake City

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.”

Paralympian Dani, answers questions from patients as she prepares to leave for the Paralympic Games

After competing in the 2020 Paralympics just last year in track, Dani tackles a new sport for the winter games! She will compete in Nordic skiing and the biathlon event which includes Nordic skiing and shooting in Beijing. Our patients are cheering her on and have a few questions for her as she enters for the world stage again!
View Transcript

Jacob: I'm Jacob. How many days do you practice a week?

Dani: Hey, Jacob. Thank you for the question. I practice six days a week, so I get one off day a week, and I actually just got back from practice. So, I have another one this afternoon. So, most days I do have two practices a day.

Phoenix: Hi, Dani. My name is Phoenix. I have a question. Are superstitions big and Paralympics, as big as they are in regular sports, for example, baseball?

Dani: Hey, Phoenix. Thanks for your question. Interesting question. I don't think I have any superstitions. I don't know. I would have to ask my teammates if they have anything. But I don't think that our sport relies on it as much, maybe, heavily, because it's a racing sport, and it's such a long race that there's kind of time. I don't know.

Phippin: Hi. My name is Phippin. How old were you when you decided to do Paralympics?

Dani: Hey, Phippin. Good question. I actually only got started doing the Paralympics just about 2 1/2 years ago. And so, it's been a short amount of time compared to a lot of people. But I just didn't know much about adaptive sports when I was growing up, and I always played for my school, and things like that. So, I didn't even really know I was Paralympic eligible. And it's just been just about 2 1/2, almost 3, years.

Jacob: Can you do a 360?

Dani: Jacob just asked if I could do a 360. In cross country skiing, we don't really do any tricks, at all. I think I can almost maybe land 360 if I was just standing still and tried to quickly jump around on my skis. But unfortunately no tricks, for us.

Henry: Hi. I'm Henry, and I'm 11 years old and I just got my cast on. And I was wondering how you overcome injuries. And could you bring me back something?

Dani: Hey, Henry. Thanks for the video. I'm sorry to see you have a cast on. I'm curious what happened, but I really do like the camo cast. That's sweet. I have had quite a few injuries now in my career, and I still have some ongoing ones. And to be honest, I don't know how to deal with them always, but I do my best to do different exercises, go to physical therapy, and always listen to my physical therapist if he tells me to do something. Ice is my a best friend. Heat's my best friend. So, there's lots of different remedies I use. And let me know what you want me to bring back.

Izzy: Hi. I'm Izzy Hester. I'm a patient at Shriners' Hospital, and I was wondering what it was like to compete in front of the whole world.

Dani: Hey, Izzy. Thank you for your question. Izzy asked what it was like to compete in front of the whole world. In Tokyo, it was quite a different experience. With COVID, there were no actual fans in the Olympic stadium where we competed for track, but knowing that there was tons of cameras around and people might be tuning in online was definitely intimidating. I don't know if I was ready to handle that pressure. But because of that experience, hopefully now, this time around, for Beijing, I'll be in a better place for that.

Jacob: I like skiing, but I'm afraid of going down big hills. Were you ever afraid of going down big hills. If so, how do you get over it?

Dani: Our last question from Jacob is, how did I get over the fear of going down big hills. In cross country skiing, we don't have as craziest downhills as Alpine skiing, but I do still get afraid of some of the downhills we have in cross country. I've only been cross country skiing for two years. And probably one of my biggest faults in the sport is that I still have some fear going downhill. So, I'm trying to practice that.

Sarah Jane: 04:11 Hi, my name is [Sarah 00:04:13] Jane, and I'm a patient at Shriners' Hospital for Children. You are a hero to all of us. So, my question is, who is your hero?

Dani: 04:22 [Sarah 00:04:22] Jane, first off, thank you so much. That is so kind of you to say. I would say, my hero is all of the people who work for Shriners. They are doing great things for all of the patients, all of the families, and since I have most recently of gotten to volunteer at Shriners as an adult, I've gotten to see their work in action, and how much it has an impact on our community. So, thank you to everyone who works at Shriners.

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