By Tom Wood
When Joe Danforth was born with CHARGE syndrome, his parents Nichola and Martin Danforth were told their little boy wouldn’t make it.
After numerous operations at the start of Joe’s early life, surgeons then said Joe would never be able to walk. However, Joe proved everyone wrong when he led his Sheffield Wednesday heroes out at Hillsborough.
CHARGE syndrome is a congenital disorder which affects one in 20,000 people. The symptoms include difficulty walking, eating, hearing and seeing.
Joe who is now ten, fell in love with football when Martin bought him a pennant just before he was christened.
“We wanted to get him christened because we didn’t want to register his birth and death at the same time,” said Martin (45). “On the way I went into the Sheffield Wednesday shop and bought him a pennant. I couldn’t let him go without being a blue.”
Joe learnt how to walk by using a special seat during physiotherapy and Nichola (37) can remember the first steps he took when he was five.
“One day he just got up and walked across the living room,” said Nichola. “I was shocked and I didn’t expect him to do it, I panicked because I thought he was going to hurt himself.”
In Joe’s short life, Nichola said he has done everything that doctors told us he would never do.
“He’s a little monkey and he drives me potty but I wouldn’t change him for the world,” said Nichola.
Joe’s Big Day
Nichola and Martin from Deepcar, wrote to Sheffield Wednesday asking if Joe could be a mascot. Theirs and Joe’s wish came true when he walked out at Hillsborough in front of nearly 30,000 people on March 19.
“It was phenomenal, it was better than my wedding day, no offence Martin,” said Nichola.
Martin who videoed Joe leading the team out found it very emotional.
He said, “when he walked out in front, the chest came out like a proud dad. It was my best day in football I’ve ever had.”
The video which Martin took has over four million views and it has raised awareness of CHARGE syndrome. Also Joe’s story of becoming a little hero.
“Never give up because miracles do happen, they told us our son wouldn’t survive,” said Nichola.
Nichola and Martin are campaigning to get Sheffield Wednesday fans singing Joe’s name. Here’s their Facebook page