Danny's Challenge: the true story of a father learning to love his son

18th March 2005 at 00:00
Danny's Challenge: the true story of a father learning to love his son

By Danny Mardell

Short Books pound;12.99

Was there a child with Down syndrome in your street when you were a child? Did you giggle and stare, call out cruel names, or play tricks that make you sweat with shame when you remember them? One of the strengths of Danny Mardell's book is his readiness to face up to those roots. He recalls his treatment of a Down syndrome girl living locally:

"I remember knocking on her door one day and asking her mum if she could come out to play, and I remember her mum asking why. She knew we wanted to take the mickey out of her daughter. And the girl cried because she wanted to come out."

All of that, and a hard urban childhood with a father in prison, was in the background when Danny and his wife Carol had Dan, their Down baby. At that point, though, his natural impulsiveness, which jumps out at you throughout his book, was instantly turned into determination to help Dan and other children with the syndrome. He set up "Danny's Challenge", and began to raise money. He's boxed Nigel Benn, and this year plans to climb Everest.

He's still abrasive, you can tell: the book relates that his marriage ended, and he fell out with Mencap in a big way, partly because they were uncomfortable with him raising money through boxing.

There's no doubt, though, that young Dan (aged 10 now) is acting as a stabiliser, and may well do so even more as he grows to be as big as his dad.

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