By Lynne Golodner
It’s going to be different to live several states away from her family and friends, but Danielle McKay is ready for the adventure.
Graduating this spring from Farmington Central High School, she is also graduating from nearly a decade of involvement with Kids Kicking Cancer (KKC).
“I am semi-nervous about leaving to go to school out-of-state,” says Danielle, who will attend Morgan State University in Baltimore, where she has earned a scholarship to study theater arts and communications. She sees Hollywood or Broadway – or both – in her future.
KKC taught her “how to speak up more,” says Danielle, “and have more confidence. They taught me how to breathe in the light and blow out the darkness and deal with stressful situations.”
Danielle first came to KKC when she was nine, shortly after her younger sister Grace was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma.
“A lot of cancer programs don’t focus on the siblings,” say Danielle and her mom, Aletha.
“I met other kids and made friends,” says Danielle. “My earliest memory is us in class, and we would have to get separated a lot because we wouldn’t stop chatting.” She giggles as she says it, adding with a gleam, “It didn’t work at all.”
Danielle is speaking about her friendships with Haley Wallace, Paris Davis and Je’Nailya Belew, four inseparable besties who are all graduating from high school. The four have created digital chat groups to stay in touch as they go their separate ways.
Despite being an incredibly busy and involved teen – Danielle sings with the Detroit Youth Choir, has a seat on student government and is involved in diversity and equity programs at her school – she always made time for KKC’s Heroes Circle programs because of the profound friendships she made there.
Friendships that extended to her family as well.
“We’ve all become close,” says Aletha. “We hang out outside of KKC, and it’s nice to get together with all the parents. There is something special about the program. They just seem to wrap their arms around us.”
Thankfully, Grace has been in remission for six years, but the lessons they’ve learned from KKC continue to feed their lives.
Like power breathing. Aletha says the whole family employs the techniques they learned at KKC without even realizing it, managing stressful situations with ease.
Although she didn’t endure an illness herself, Danielle found support from KKC’s Heroes Circle community when her sister was going through treatments. She could relax and release with friends while her parents attended to Grace, never feeling neglected or ignored because she had her extended Heroes Circle family.
“Cancer doesn’t impact just the person with the diagnosis,” says Aletha. “It impacts the entire family. And KKC extended our family just when we needed it.”
“We were known for causing trouble,” Danielle laughs, remembering fun times with Haley, Paris and Je’Nailya. “We’d chat the whole hour instead of focusing on class.”
Still, Danielle knows the power she’s gained from KKC and the deep friendships she’s made there. “Wherever I go, I know I’ll take my power breathing and dedication that I learned from KKC into the future,” she says.