UPDATE: Jennifer Thorsen and Danielle Sualski have been chosen as the Huffington Post's Greatest People of the Day, which features stories of people across the nation who are confronting major issues and making a difference in their community. Congratulations, Jennifer and Danielle!
Speech therapist Jennifer Thorsen works with a lot of wonderful children, but one of her young students has made such an impression that Thorsen knew she had to find a way to put her in the spotlight.
Danielle Sulaski just turned 8 over the weekend and she celebrated with two cakes, one for her birthday and one for Easter. If she is lucky, and the community rallies behind her, she may be celebrating with a trip to an amusement park for special needs children.
Danielle, a student at Georgetown Elementary School in , has cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let that hold her back. It is her determination that led Thorsen to nominate Danielle for a contest where she may win a trip to Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park in San Antonio, Texas that is accessible to all children, including Danielle.
Thorsen learned of the contest through an e-mail from We Are Teachers, an online resource for educators. The site sponsors the contest annually and student who gathers the most votes wins a trip to the amusement park.
In her nominating essay, Thorsen said: “Danielle deserves to win this trip because she is a true example of the saying, ‘Shoot for the moon, because even if you don’t reach it, you’ll still land among the stars.’”
Thorsen started working with Danielle when she was in kindergarten and at that time she didn’t have much verbal ability, but now she is able to talk in more complex sentences. Danielle was also mostly confined to a wheelchair, but now in addition to using her wheelchair, she is also able to get around using a walker.
“She doesn’t let her limitation get her down. She has taught me a lot,” Thorsen said. “She has the determination to make things happen.”
Danielle was very excited to talk about the contest and dressed up in a pretty blue dress for her interview. She was all smiles on Tuesday during her interview and when asked why people should vote for her, she replied: “I want to win.”
While her friends may spend time at Disney World over Spring Break, those types of trips are more challenging for Danielle, Thorsen said. She has taken a trip to Key Lime Cove, but winning the contest would allow her to visit an amusement park that would allow her to swing in a specially made swing set or ride on a carousel capable of holding a wheelchair. These are joys she has never know, Thorsen said.
“She is such a positive kid and doesn’t let things get her down,” though Thorsen said, like anyone she has her moments. “She just keeps going. She is always happy and doesn’t let anything embarrass her. She is not shy and doesn’t try to hide.”
Thorsen had to ask Danielle’s parents for permission to enter her in the contest and they were very excited at the opportunity.
“I really want her to win,” Thorsen said. “The whole purpose is to rally the community around Danielle.”
Voting continues through April 24. Votes for Danielle can be cast on the We Are Teachers, Morgan's Wonderland contest page. Learn more at Morgan’s Wonderland's website.