Community embraces prom queen with Down Syndrome

Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 29, 2016

It was a dream come true for one teenage girl, and a moment that captured the attention of her school and the community, when Danielle Marino was named North Harford High School’s prom queen.

“Honestly I think it’s because she has Down Syndrome and the kids at her school like her and they wanted to give her an opportunity that she may never have,” Kim Marino, Danielle’s mom, said.

Kim Marino said she learned Danielle had been nominated for prom court, but didn’t really know what it involved at first. On prom night, Kim and her husband, her parents and mother-in-law were there to see the festivities.

“They announced her as prom queen and we were just stunned and the place just erupted,” Kim Marino said. “She said, ‘mom I cried, I was just so happy.’”

The 18-year-old donned her crown Saturday and took a turn around the dance floor with the school’s prom king, Zach Fiacco, who grew up on the same street and is good friends with her brother.

“He just treated her like a queen, he held her hand, he twirled her around, he just doted on her,” Kim Marino, Danielle’s mom, said.

A photo of the pair circulating on Facebook had been shared 261 times and liked more than 100 times as of Friday. The school took to Twitter to share a photo of Zach and Danielle. That was retweeted 163 times and liked 330 times.


At a doctor’s appointment that week, one of the nurses recognized Danielle from the Facebook photo and asked Kim, “Was she voted prom queen?”

 “People I don’t even know are posting on Twitter and saying things to me, it’s just bigger than I expected,” Kim Marino said.

The high school senior is involved at school and has been cheerleading for North Harford Hawks since her freshman year. Kim Marino said the school, especially Danielle’s coaches and teammates, have really helped make her daughter’s high school experience better than she could have hoped.

“They’ve seen she’s capable of doing things like other people, it just highlights that hey we’re more alike than different, and yes, she learns differently, but she’s just like us,” Kim Marino said.

Kim describes her daughter as vivacious, kind, funny and filled with love.

“As far as Danielle, I can tell you most days she greets me with a big smile and always demands a hug,” North Harford’s principal Colin Carr said. “She’s very much a part of daily school operations, you know she cheers for us in two different sports, a lot of people know her.”

Carr said he has also had people reach out to him personally about the school’s prom queen.

“My kids play rec sports and I’ve had parents from other communities who have seen it on social media and they were particularly touched by the response of our own kids for truly voting their conscience on who they felt should be [prom] queen,” Carr said. “This one event in particular has touched the community.”

“I’ve been a school administrator for 13 years and it was one of the most touching moments I’ve experienced, it really was,” Carr said.

For Kim Marino, the experience has shown her just another reason to be proud of her daughter.

“I just think that she, which surprised me more than anything, she’s been self-advocating for a long time just by being a really nice person and showing people that she’s like them,” Kim Marino said. “That just makes me so proud that she single handedly won people over just by being herself.”

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