Passion to help shapes senior project |

Passion to help shapes senior project

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

When it came time for her senior project, Danielle Johnson knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“I’ve always wanted to be a plastic surgeon,” she said. “I wanted to do something to help someone.”

She heard about a fifth-grader at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School who was born with a cleft palate that had not been corrected.

The expense of traveling to U.C. Davis for treatment and the surgery itself became too much for the family to bear financially.

He needed surgery and orthodontic work. So Johnson, 17, contacted Reno plastic surgeon Dr. Louis Bonaldi who agreed to perform the procedure free, as part of a program called “New Beginnings” his practice provides.

The orthodontic work will cost about $20,000 and Carson City’s Dr. Vincent D’Ascoli said he’d set up a payment plan for the family.

Johnson met with the family, who did not want to be identified, to tell them the good news.

“They were very thankful,” she said. “They had pretty much run out of options.”

Johnson said she also is grateful to be a part of the process.

“When I first met him I could tell that he’s very, very shy about it,” she said. “Knowing that he won’t have to be shy as he’s going into high school or in the future, that makes it all worthwhile. He won’t have to be embarrassed. He’ll look just like everybody else.”

To raise money to pay for the required orthodontic work, Johnson is organizing a pancake breakfast 8-10 a.m. Saturday at Applebee’s.

Carson High School seniors are required to complete a senior project as part of their English classes. Students must write a research paper then complete a tangible project that coincides with the subject of the paper.

As the final element, they present their projects to a panel of community members in April.

Johnson’s goal, however, goes beyond a passing grade.

“It just feels amazing to know you helped this person,” she said.

It confirmed her desire to pursue a career in medicine.

“It showed me what I actually want to do in my future,” she said.

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at or 881-1272.