By Cindy Adams


"Look up!" A simple statement that changed a life. It may have taken countless repetitions and a bit of time because, for Danny Dunford, it encompassed unfamiliar information, and it was a lot to process. Danny was accustomed to hanging his head, looking mostly at his feet. His persistent downward gaze was challenged by these consistent words: "Look up! We love you. God loves you. You are special."  

Danny was 17, and didn't even know how to tie his shoes, when he started living with Lois and Wilbert Yates, his enCircle Family Care Providers. He is now a confident 29-year-old with a quick smile, a firm handshake, a polite greeting and an undeniable warmth. He also stands straight with his head held high.  

"When you bring someone into your home, you should do it out of love. You should do it because you want to make a difference in someone’s life," Lois said. "I want Danny’s life to be full. I wouldn’t have it any other way." 

Lois and Danny smile at the camera

Danny works at the Martinsville Kroger where both customers and staff seek him out for his kindness. He volunteers in the kitchen at Salvation Army and helps pass out drinks for a local “Feed the Hungry” program. He also serves as an usher at his church.  

"I am a new Danny," he said.  

He bases this bold statement on a scripture verse from 2 Corinthians that he memorized and readily shares, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come." 

"Danny loves the Lord," Lois said. "He reads his Bible and starts every day on his knees in prayer." 

Lois and Wilbert didn't know Danny's background until after he lived with them for two months, and she confesses that she is glad she didn't. She knows how far he has come, though, and she thanks God for him all the time, saying "there is just something about this child."

Danny also has a creative side. He builds replicas of landmarks like Mabry Mill and the Martinsville Speedway out of cardboard pieces. He builds Lego mansions and works on complex puzzles. He is talented. And if you offer him any semblance of a compliment, he immediately responds with an exuberant "thank you." It’s his favorite word, and he uses it often.  

At home, Danny cleans his own room, makes his own bed and always asks Lois how he can help her. He often sweeps, does laundry and works in the yard. 

"She showed me how to fold clothes in half and then fold the sleeves back," Danny said. "She also showed me how to cook spaghetti." 

According to Lois, all he really needed to be shown was love. The words "look up" were meant to be simple reminders of this truth. But what they brought forth was "a new Danny."