2023 Person of the Year: Ava Danuser

Cancer surviving teen a triumphant inspiration for others

Ava Danuser, 16, now two years post-treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, has dedicated her time and creative talents to raising awareness of and support for those going through pediatric cancer. 

The Highland Park High School student’s resiliency and advocacy earned our admiration, making her Park Cities People’schoice for 2023 Person of the Year.r

Ava was diagnosed with bone and tissue cancer at 13 after an injury while cheerleading and did nine months of chemotherapy. 

“I know my experience and how bad it was. If I can just help make someone’s a little bit better, I’m all for that,” Ava said.

While she was going through chemotherapy, a friend told Ava about Salood, a Texas nonprofit bringing businesses and cancer patients together to create brand partnerships benefiting families affected by pediatric cancer. As she was finishing chemo, Ava was accepted as a 2022 Salood Ambassador to represent a line of Stoney Clover Lane products.

“One thing about Ava is she’s very mature for her age,” said Salood co-founder Joshua Castillo. “She was just standing tall … just really well-spoken, kind, intuitive, smart, creative. One thing I remember sticking out to me is that she loves to play music, she loves to draw, she loves art.”

Danuser co-founded the Heroes for Children club at the high school with senior Ellie Donahoe. 

HPHS principal Jeremy Gilbert has known Danuser since she was 5 years old, as he was also her principal at Hyer Elementary School.

“Even back then, I knew she was a unique and special human being,” said Gilbert, who recalled his feelings at learning of her diagnosis.

 “Even dealing with this difficult hand, I knew Ava was going to be a fighter, a survivor, and ultimately a game changer for so many people,” he said. “However, even with these high expectations, I am blown away by her toughness and her heart for others. She took a challenging situation for herself and turned it into a winning opportunity for others.” 

Most recently, Ava got among her biggest stages yet, volunteering at Junior Cattle Baron’s Ball with her mom, Christine, and serving as the first paddle raise ambassador for the 2023 Cattle Baron’s Ball supporting the American Cancer Society in October, headlined by Shania Twain.

Ava met the multi-Grammy Award winner whose hit song “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” she’d previously performed in choir during the ball. 

This year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball co-chair, Isabell Novakov Higginbotham, said funds from the paddle raise, which raised a record-setting amount of more than $500,000, will support an Ewing’s sarcoma grant named in honor of Ava. 

“We’re very impressed with Ava and her maturity, and her willingness to help others, and her positivity after what she’s been through,” Higginbotham added. “We just thought she was a really positive voice and a role model for other people, especially other children.”

Share this article...
Email this to someone
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, former deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.