‘He got our kids to school safe.’ Community rallies behind bus driver who suffered stroke Thursday morning

A Stanly County Schools bus driver is at Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord recovering from what doctors say is a stroke he suffered Thursday morning.

Danny McDaniel, who had not been feeling well, was heading home after dropping off middle and high school students when he crashed his 1994 Jeep Cherokee, according to Locust resident Erika Burr, who set up a GoFundMe page for McDaniel. She is best friend of McDaniel’s niece, Alicia Hollon, who provided her with much of the information.

McDaniel, 59, transports students on Bus 54 to Locust Elementary, Stanfield Elementary, West Stanly Middle and West Stanly High, said Burr, noting McDaniel takes her children to school.

He has been a SCS bus driver since August 2011, according to the school system.

Burr said doctors originally thought McDaniel suffered from a grand mal seizure but now believe he had a blood clot in his neck that went to his brain.

McDaniel, who lives in the Millingport area, is unresponsive, though he is breathing on his own. His sister Debra Hollon has been by his side since the hospital called her, Burr said.

Doctors have said he will not be able to drive for at least six months, Burr wrote.

“If you know Danny, you will know that driving a bus and working with his students is his passion!,” Burr wrote. “He has dedicated many years to our community and he currently needs our support.”

As of Friday afternoon, close to 30 people have donated about $1,400 to help with medical expenses while McDaniel is hospitalized. The goal is to raise $25,000.

“I was blown away,” Burr said about the amount of people that have already offered financial support.

SCS Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis called McDaniel a “dedicated employee” who is tasked with “the essential job of safely transporting children to and from school daily.”

He asked that McDaniel and his family “be kept in everyone’s thoughts and prayers during this time.”

Matthew Griffin, who said he has known Danny McDaniel for years and considers him a “father figure,” said Danny “cares for everybody but himself.”

“I knew he was a loved person,” Griffin said, speaking of the support shown to the family.

Albemarle Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall, who has known McDaniel for many years, donated $100. She said she last saw McDaniel about three weeks ago, when he drove elementary students to the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center for a Stanly County Arts Council event.

“Those kids, you can tell, they just love him,” she said. “They just genuinely care for him and him for them.”

While she is praying McDaniel has a “100 percent recovery,” Hall said she is thankful he did not crash the school bus with students on board.

McDaniel’s son James, who has also been by his side, said his father “has got the biggest heart in the world,” noting he also drives buses for churches in the area.

He also offered thanks to Oakboro Police Chief T.J. Smith, who James McDaniel said pulled his father out of the jeep following the crash.

While at the hospital Thursday night, James was on the phone with his wife when McDaniel happened to hear the voices of his grandchildren in the background and started moving, James said. He told his wife to put his kids on the phone.

He put his phone on speaker and held it close to his father.

“He smiled and grinned and everything right then and there when he heard his grandbabies,” James said, adding McDaniel is his children’s “go-to guy.”

Alicia Hollon, Burr’s friend and McDaniel’s niece, said it “means the world to our family to know how loved Danny is and how much his community supports him.”

Burr said she believes McDaniel knew something was wrong with him as he was taking the students to school Thursday morning.

“God willing, he got our kids to school safe,” Burr said.