Cancer survivor receives award for philanthropic work overseas


TRUMBULL, Conn. (WTNH)– Danielle Burns was a typical teenager when she was hit with a life-changing diagnosis two years ago.

“So I was 16, one month into my junior year. I was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” said Burns, who’s from Tolland.

She spent months in and out of the hospital with treatments taking a toll on her physically.

‘The inpatient stays really took over my body and made it very hard,” Burns explains. “At some point my oncologist said to me, well critical illness, you are eligible for Make-A-Wish and I said okay.”

That’s when Make-A-Wish Connecticut stepped in.

“Danielle’s, by far, is the most selfless, most impactful wish to give that Make-A-Wish Connecticut has ever granted,” said Carin Buckman, marketing, communications manager for Make-A-Wish Connecticut.

Danielle’s wish came from a random idea she had as a little girl.

“When I was six or seven I vividly remember telling my mom when I’m older I’m going to pack a suitcase of water bottles and fly to Africa.”

Danielle decided to use her wish to build two wells in Africa, for children who didn’t heavy access to clean drinking water.

“So what we were able to do is put her in touch with a non-profit called Uganda Farmers Inc. and their whole purpose , their whole mission, is to build these wells in Africa,” explains Buckman.

Danielle raised nearly $30,000 to put towards the installation of the wells. Make-A-Wish Connecticut then paid for Danielle and her family to fly to Uganda and meet the children impacted by such a selfless act. Danielle was there for an official ribbon cutting. Welcomed by thousands of kids between two schools and an orphanage.

“They were all lined up in the driveway clapping and shouting my name and reaching out to touch my arm,” said Danielle.

Something as simple as water — life-changing for everyone involved.

“They have proven through research medical and emotional benefits  that can increase a child’s chance of survival,” said Buckman. “So granting these wishes is the most fulfilling. Who would not want to do this for kids and have this as their job.”

On Friday Danielle received the Outstanding Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Recognized for her work through Make-A-Wish Connecticut during such a difficult time in her own life.

Danielle is now cancer free, a survivor. She has a message for anyone dealing with the hardships of life.

“If you were having a hard time it’s okay, you are allowed to do that, but you can come out of it. You can get through that and you can still make a difference. You can still do anything really.”

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