Remembering Danny

Remembering Danny

Danny Duggan died doing the work he loved. Danny Duggan, executive director of Cherokee Children’s Home, died from injuries he received in a basketball game with students and staff at the home. Danny loved children and for 22 years he devoted himself to the children at Cherokee.I was scheduled to call Danny just a few minutes before I got the news that he had passed from this life. On January 19th one of my clients had called me and told me about the plight of a 12 year old boy that needed a place to stay. I told him that I knew exactly who to talk with and that was Danny Duggan at Cherokee Home for Children. Danny is a man who I am thankful for and I have great respect for him.{{more}}You may ask how was it that Danny Duggan would be the first person to come to mind when my client called. If you must know, get a box of Kleenex and I’ll tell you the story. In 2002 three young men came into Marilyn and my lives. They were all teenagers and we loved them and still do. However we would soon realize that despite our best intentions and efforts our home was probably not the best place for them. We were not sure what to do, however, we knew that they must be in a place that would give them unconditional love, a place of safety, and also a place where they could excel. We had heard of Cherokee Home for Children and after much prayer we decided to call.When I called the home I was immediately transferred to Danny. I told him about the boys and what we felt like they needed and he told me that they could help. We then talked to the boys and asked them about going to the home. They were apprehensive and somewhat resistant. One of the questions they asked was “Was this a place for bad boys? My answer was no but it’s a place for boys that have been dealt a bad hand. The night before they were to go to Cherokee they still had a lot of questions. I remember calling Danny on his cell phone about 8:30pm that Sunday night. I said, “Danny, if I go to the office where I have speaker phones will you answer questions for the boys?” He agreed to do that and I guess he spent 45 minutes reassuring all of us that this was the right decision. The next day we headed to Cherokee. It was a new trip for all of us, we talked as we traveled but we were careful about the words we used. I think we all knew that certain words would bring forth emotions that were just below the surface. Finally we were sitting in Danny Duggan’s office and he lost no time in making all of us feel comfortable and once again reassuring us that this was the right decision.The time finally came for us to head home and to leave the boys behind. We basically let the long hugs be our good byes. I don’t think any of us had the capacity or the will to actually say bye at this point. As we drove home I think we felt like proud parents who have dropped off their children at college. However, in this case they were not going to college they were still kids. They were bigger, stronger, and faster than me, but they were still kids who needed to grow up.In May of that year we witnessed the first one graduate from Cherokee High School. The graduation was held on the football field. The community of Cherokee has a population of 175 according to the 2000 Census Report. It was a small class but they had everything that a graduating class has just on a smaller level. As I sat there I realized that Cherokee was really a small town surrounded by huge ranches. I was so Thankful that God had taken this small piece of isolated land and made it an incubator of safety for young men and women.Over the next few years we went back for graduations and other occasions at Cherokee. The young men continued to grow and mature. The last time I saw Danny was at McMurry University. He and his lovely wife, Janiece, had come to watch one of the young men that we left in their care five years earlier graduate from college. Danny and Janiece were so proud of his accomplishments.One of those boys joined Marilyn and I as we went to pay our final respects to Danny Duggan. The difference this time was I wasn’t taking a boy, I was traveling with a man. Danny played a major role in that transformation. He will surely be missed.