Meet Wisconsin’s Down Syndrome ambassador
By Jane Myhra
Danielle Thoe, of Waupaca, has shown that people with Down Syndrome can live their own lives and be happy.
Her smiling face and kind heart have already made a difference throughout the area.
Recently, she took the next step by becoming Wisconsin’s ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society.
“Her public image was getting out there so this was like taking the next step,” said her mother, Shaun Thoe. “Somebody has to be the voice and Danielle is finding her voice.”
Her first task was to promote the ABLE to Work Act to politicians in Washington, D.C.
“Somebody had to do it,” said Danielle. “This is not my first time to Washington, D.C., but it is the first time talking and meeting with politicians that can help people like me have jobs and keep money to live a good life.”
Recently introduced in Congress, the ABLE to Work Act will allow people with disabilities to save more money for disability-related expenses in a tax-exempt account.
Currently, an employed beneficiary can only earn income up to the Federal Poverty Level ($11,770). The ABLE to Work Act will raise the annual contribution limit from $14,000 to about $26,000.
The new bill, if passed, will encourage work, self-sufficiency and help keep disabled individuals out of poverty.
Being self-sufficient is important to Danielle.
At age 26, she lives in her own apartment in the basement of her parents’ house and works two jobs.
She walks or bikes whenever possible and works part-time at Waupaca County Industries and McDonalds. She also volunteers at Head Start.
Danielle has been involved in track, bowling and basketball in Special Olympics.
She is also a cheerleader on the Wisconsin Extreme Dream Team, which is supervised and coached by the varsity cheerleaders from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“With their help, I can do so much more and I have made some great friendships,” Danielle said.
Three years ago, she won the title of Wisconsin Miss Amazing Junior Miss and was second runner-up for the national title. The next year she won the state title again and was first runner-up at nationals. Last year, she won the national title of National Miss Amazing Junior Miss. She will compete again in June.
Danielle’s hobbies include dancing, fashion, Facebook and texting with her friends.
“I love to text a lot,” she said.
“There are a lot of opportunities that are changing for children with Down Syndrome,” Shaun said. “Danielle is a person, and she wants to have the same life as everyone else.”