This 10-part series highlights the 2021 McGowan Courage Award nominees. Brought to you by the Mansfield Rotary Club.
LEXINGTON – Daniela Perez was in second grade when her family received very frightening, life-altering news about her health.
“I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on October 30, 2010 . . . just a day before Halloween,” Perez said.
Perez was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s intensive care unit for days, then she began chemotherapy treatments that lasted for two and a half years.
For the remainder of second grade, Perez’s teacher Skyped into her classroom so she could continue to learn with her classmates. While schools today are well-versed in virtual learning, this was not the case in 2010. Perez was Central Elementary’s original virtual student, according to Principal Kathy Weidig.
“She worked so hard, even when she was sick at home,” Weidig said. “Her fortitude was incredible.”
Looking back on those years, Perez feels grateful for the help and support she received and wants to recognize the staff at Central and Eastern Elementary schools.
“I am thankful for all the support I had at the time from the school and community. I even had a special day on November 1, which was called ‘Dani Day,’ where everyone (in the district) wore orange that day since it is the color of leukemia,” Perez said.
Perez receives yearly check-ups and is cancer-free today.
“Because I was so young at the time, I didn't realize the seriousness of the situation, but as I got older, I learned to just live life the way I want to because life is so short,” she continued. “I just wanted to be a better person.”
To honor Perez for her fortitude, hard work and resiliency in the face of adversity, she is the 2021 recipient of the McGowan Courage Award for Lexington High School. To Perez, courage means “being yourself and being strong.”
“Lexington High School is proud to nominate Daniela Perez for this prestigious award,” said Principal Kevin Young.
Perez plans to attend The Ohio State University at Mansfield in the fall, majoring in psychology. She aims to become a psychologist one day, inspired by her love for the medical field and interest in true crime.
“My experience throughout all of this has taught me to enjoy life everyday and take it easy when I’m not feeling well. I am thankful for all the family and friends that supported me, I wouldn’t have done it without them,” Perez said.
The 2021 McGowan Courage Awards are supported by these sponsors:
Park National Bank
North Central State College
Mansfield Art Center