West Rowan junior hits the roof to raise funds for charity

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 21, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — A West Rowan High School junior is taking a new perspective on her Thanksgiving break to raise money for charity.
Starting at 8 a.m. today, Dani Horn will be living on top of Mario’s Restaurant, 635 Jake Alexander Blvd. W., Salisbury.
She says she won’t come down from the metal roof of the restaurant until she raises $2,500 for developmental disability research.
Dani, 17, and her mother, Vicki Horn, said they hope community members will “Get Dani Down” by Thursday so she can be home for Thanksgiving dinner.
But Dani says she’ll stay up there the whole week if she has to.
The rooftop fundraiser was actually Vicki’s idea. She knew her daughter was trying to raise money, and she was inspired by TV news coverage of a similar, successful stunt.
“I told her, ‘You’re crazy,’ ” Dani said. “But after thinking about it, I was like, ‘It’s for a good cause, so it’s worth it.’ ”
Dani will represent North Carolina District West at this year’s Dance-a-Thon, a Junior Civitan fundraiser held in Canada.
The Dance-a-Thon benefits the Civitan Research Center in Alabama, which works to treat and cure childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
Dani said she was moved by stories she heard about children struggling with these disorders and the research that can help them.
“Last year, our person raised $1,898,” Dani said. “The district wanted me to raise 15 percent more, which would be $2,198. But I decided I wanted to do more — $2,500 at least.”
On Sunday, western Rowan residents Dani and Vicki stopped by Mario’s to prepare for the week. Vicki helped her daughter climb a ladder to the top of the restaurant.
“I’ll be sleeping in my car down here a lot this week,” the mother said.
But she’s not too worried about her daughter’s safety, because Dani’s friends will have plenty of time to visit during their break from school. Some have agreed to promote her cause with signs at nearby intersections.
Dani isn’t staying on the main, sloped part of the roof. Instead, she’ll set up a sleeping bag and tarp on the front overhang, which has a flat roof surrounded by short brick walls.
She is armed with a cellphone, a laptop and a dry-erase board, where she will write the amount of money she still needs to raise to reach her goal.
Dani will descend from the roof to take bathroom breaks, but not to eat or sleep.
“People have been saying they’ll bring her meals, especially if it’s cold,” Vicki said. “She’ll have a bucket that she can lower, and you can drop donations in it, and she can raise it back up.”
For those who want to keep a record of their donations, the student will have tax-deductible receipts as well.
“She doesn’t have a job — she just goes to school — and this is the only time in her life that she can do crazy stuff like this,” Vicki said.
Dani said she loves to volunteer not only with Junior Civitans, where she is the district’s public relations coordinator, but also with other groups and events.
She volunteers at the All Dogs Great and Small animal shelter, helps out with the Special Olympics and even has adopted a highway — Neel Road — to keep it clean.
When she graduates, Dani hopes to go to the U.S. Naval Academy and serve at least 15 years in the military. After her retirement from service, she said, she wants to go back to school to become either a chemistry teacher or a large animal veterinarian.
While trying to find a roof to climb, Dani enlisted the help of Rowan County Register of Deeds Harry Welch, who owns All Dogs Great and Small.
Eventually, their search led to Mario’s Diner.
Owner Chris Bradshaw met with Dani’s parents, worked out liability issues and agreed to let her stay on the roof for a good cause.
“It’s neat to see a teenager come up with an idea like this and follow through with it,” Bradshaw said. “She’s young, but she’s obviously very determined. I was glad to help.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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