BEACON FALLS — What Danie Meder brings to the Woodland girls basketball team can’t be measured on a stat sheet. She provides the kind of inspiration that can change lives.
It begins with the enormous hearts of her parents, Gina and George Meder from Beacon Falls. They adopted Danie, a soon-to-be sophomore at Woodland, from China when she was 1 year old. When she was 5 years old, Danie, who is now 14, suffered her first seizure.
“The doctors have told us there was a lack of oxygen during her birth and 25 percent of her brain was damaged,” Gina said. “By the time she was in fourth grade she was having several seizures a day. But she is remarkable, considering her condition. She has played youth soccer and basketball. Her desire was to play at Woodland and the team accepted her with open arms.”
Danie has a sister, Jessie, who was also adopted from China and will be a junior at Woodland. The Meders also have an older daughter, 26-year-old Stevie who lives in New York. The couple lost two adopted daughters from China, Andie was 3 years old and Joie was 9 years old when they died.
Danie attended Fraser Woods Montessori, a private school in Newtown, through eighth grade.
Going to high school was a little frightening for Danie and her parents, until she was befriended by Jenna Pannone and Maddie Hupprich, two senior captains on last year’s basketball team.
“Going to high school after being in a private school was kind of scary, but Jenna and Maddie have been amazing. Danie never really had any friends until they came into her life,” Gina said.
Woodland girls basketball coach Jess Moffo was more than willing to give Danie a chance to play on the basketball team after speaking to Gina, who sits on the end of the bench during games and attends practices in case Danie needs her.
“The team really took her under their wings,” Moffo said. “When Danie was in the hospital for a time the team went down to see her. She is part of our family, and the basketball team wanted her to know that her sisters were looking out for her. Danie is truly an inspiration. She is an amazing kid who has touched everyone’s life.”
Danie scored her first career points in a game against Sacred Heart. She went on to score six points last season and will be going out for the soccer team this fall.
“Outside of my wedding day that game was the highlight of my life,” Moffo said. “I think everyone in the gym was in tears. I’m a better person just by knowing this amazing family and they will forever be a part of my life.”
Danie goes to CW Fitness in Seymour and trains at the Woodland track with Hupprich in the morning five days a week.
“It was fun,” said Danie about her first varsity points. “I really like basketball and my new teammates. I go to the gym every day. I like soccer too and want to play with my new team.”
Over the summer, the bond between Hupprich, Pannone and Danie grew stronger on a vacation to Disney World in Florida.
“At first we just wanted to look out for her knowing her condition and we didn’t want her to get hurt,” Pannone said. “But seeing her work so hard out there, she really is an amazing kid. She is so inspiring, giving it her all in spite of what she goes through.
“Going to Disney was such a great experience and allowed us to get even closer. I know it meant a lot to her, but it also meant a lot to us to see her so happy.”
“They have made her summer,” Gina said. “The way Woodland has responded to my daughter has changed her life. It’s going to be sad when Jenna and Maddie leave to go off to college in the fall. But hopefully Danie will make new friends through soccer.”
Hupprich spends part of most days over summer break with Danie training at the track or just hanging out.
“She has such a good sense of humor,” Hupprich said. “She is so inspiring and whenever I need any motivation I look to Danie and see this remarkable person who has overcome so much. I love her and I’m just thankful to have her as my friend.”
Hupprich, who also played volleyball and softball during her time at Woodland, said Danie works harder than any athlete she’s ever played with.
“Just being around her has made me a better person. Some people are afraid to get to know Danie because of the seizures, but she just wants to be around friends. Her attitude is simply amazing, I have never seen anything like it in my life,” Hupprich said. “Being around her is really eye-opening to see what she goes through and to see that smile on her face is truly inspiring.”
Danie Meder went out for the Woodland basketball team last winter out of a desire to play a sport she loves. In the process, she changed the lives of everyone around her.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Danie Meder has a brother named Jesse. She has a sister named Jessie.