The Danielle House opened its doors on January 22, 2002, an inspired dream of Diane and Tony Stento, as a way to return to others what was given to them in 1989 when their daughter, Danielle, a senior at the University of Buffalo, was struck by a drunk driver while walking with friends. The Stento family spent countless weeks at the bedside of their critically injured daughter in Buffalo, three and a half hours from home and their support network of family and friends.
Through the kindness and generosity of strangers who opened their homes to them, the family was able to find the strength and solace to get through a very difficult time. That act of kindness was never forgotten. Danielle was then transferred to a rehab center one hour from the family home. During the year she spent there, the Stentos made that trip daily to give Danielle the support she needed.
After Danielle came home to Binghamton, she and her family became a voice for Broome County Stop DWI through speaking engagements at local schools and organizations. Through the efforts and support of Broome County Stop DWI, the City of Binghamton and local area businesses, the Danielle 5K Run/Walk was instituted. In the 16 years of the Run/Walk, over $400,000 was raised to support area schools in creating awareness programs for students, including the publication of a booklet entitled “Shattered Lives” where stories of victims are shared. This publication was given to juniors and seniors in all area high schools for many years.
Another component of the events surrounding the Run/Walk was a banner contest, which promoted anti-drunk driving messages. Thousands of children from all area schools took part in this project. Prize money from the contest went back to the winning classrooms and their schools to meet the students' needs.
The Run/Walk funded the creation of the Victim Impact Panel, where victims share their stories of their hardships because of the irresponsible acts of drunk drivers. Today the panel is used as a sentencing tool for convicted drunk drivers in the Broome County court system. To add to the success of the Run/Walk, proceeds also went to a scholarship program for deserving college-bound students and, eventually, the purchase of the Danielle House.
Through it all, Diane Stento always felt that there was just “something else” that needed to be done. She could not allow Danielle or her family to be victimized by one irresponsible act. So it was that she and Tony, with the help of their close-knit family, many friends, and the generosity of a community, brought to life Diane’s inspiration of opening a home where people could stay during a medical emergency at very low or no cost – a home where they could find respite, comfort, and love when it is needed the most. This is what Karen and Bill Allen had offered the Stento family while in Buffalo.
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Due to the injury to Danielle’s brain stem, she lives at home with her parents, requiring 24 hour care. Although her looks have changed, her outlook has not. She enjoys books, movies, theater, music and social gatherings. She loves interacting and being with her family and friends, the special people in her life, and she brings a very special gift to the guests at Danielle House.
Oddly enough, Danielle had made a decision to teach months before the tragic day that took away the life she had imagined and planned for. In spite – or because – of her losses, she has taught thousands of people through the years in a different way – a more meaningful, spiritual way. For a young woman to say she is happy to be alive when everything she once had was taken away puts all things into perspective. Danielle cannot speak audibly, but she speaks loudly.
“Sometimes the things that seem to hurt us the most
Are the very things that bring out the best in us…
They are the struggles that help us discover
The faith we thought we lost
The strength we didn’t know we had
The courage to let go of the past and begin again
Because challenges help us to see
Who we really are
And what our lives can be
If only we have FAITH
AND ALWAYS KEEP TRYING.”
Taken from Danielle’s poetry journal – 1988
Danielle and her family have lived these words for the last 25 years.
Danielle is a great blessing to all those who have met her and know her.
Danielle House is her legacy.
“We may never be able to pay back a good deed,
but with the creation of Danielle House,
we were able to pay it forward.”
– Diane Stento