Born to be homecoming queen

PHOTO BY JONATHAN BIRD Molly Danner spends time at the Mohawk-Bucyrus football game after being crowned Mohawk's homecoming queen Friday.

SYCAMORE — Maria Danner said she didn’t want to hold her daughter, Molly Danner, back in life and wanted her to go out and shine — like she did.

She said she never stopped her daughter from doing what she wanted to do and wants her to be like everybody else.

“I wanted her accepted,” she said.

Molly, Maria said, was born to be a queen.

“Eighteen years in the making,” she said.

Molly, a Mohawk High School senior who has Down syndrome, was crowned the homecoming queen in front of family and friends Friday.

“Happy tears,” Molly said.

Maria said raising a child with Down syndrome is an adventure. All of Molly’s firsts, which are taken for granted with a typical child, are “fantastic,” she said.

“Every first is special,” she said.

Maria recalled struggling at the beginning, and it was hard and stressful. Angeline School and Industries personnel came to visit around the first week of Molly’s life and got her doing occupational and physical therapy, she said.

Molly started programming from birth through 3 years, and attended preschool and learned to swim at Angeline.

Thinking back to the early days, Maria said she never thought her daughter achieving homecoming queen would happen.

Molly said she was happy and surprised when she learned she had been nominated for the homecoming court. Maria recalled bawling before the walk across the field.

Molly loved being paired with Kaiden Hammer, who has been her friend for years, she said.

“Dreams come true,” she said.

Molly’s dad, Larry Danner; uncles; siblings, Trent, Travis, John and Amy; and boyfriend, Alex Sendelbach, a fellow Warrior, were among those at the game to support her Friday.

Also there to support her were Bri Gaietto, her dance teacher at Dance Unlimited for about eight years, and members of Gaietto’s family. They made shirts in her support and spelled out her name, with a heart replacing the “o.”

Gaietto said Molly is a joy to be around and is smart, sweet, sassy and hilarious. One can’t not love her, Gaietto said.

Molly is 100 percent herself, Gaietto said.

“She doesn’t care what other people think. … (People) genuinely like her,” she said.

At Mohawk, Molly is involved in choir and cheerleading.

Outside of school, she has competed in softball, running and aquatics through Special Olympics at Angeline and previously was in Girl Scout Troop No. 2412 and showed cattle at the Wyandot County Fair and Ohio State Fair as a member of the Salem Boosters 4-H club.

Molly has been dancing for about 10 years, and she said her favorite is hip hop.

“I like dancing,” she said.

Molly has been a Mohawk Warrior since kindergarten and is in the multi-handicapped class. Her teachers are amazing, she has loved them and people at Mohawk protect her, Maria said.

Molly is to graduate with the class of 2019 this spring and then is to continue her education at Mohawk until she is 22 years old. Molly said she thinks she’s going to get a job after high school, and she wants to return to Westbrook Assisted Living and Memory Care in Upper Sandusky.

Maria said she has learned unconditional love from her daughter and said her daughter has made her a better person. There is no holding Molly back, and she does what she wants to do, Maria said.

“She knows everybody in school. … Everywhere we go, somebody knows her,” she said.

Gaietto said people need to be more like those with special needs because they’re so genuine. They have the biggest heart, she said.

“Don’t base them off their disability,” she said.