Danielle King, a senior swimmer and field hockey player at C.… (Barbara Haddock Taylor,…)
Danielle King has always enjoyed being part of a team more than being an individual.
It's a quality that's shown up both in sports and her work in the community.
This year, the C. Milton Wright senior swimmer and field hockey player organized a shoe drive for a community in Ateiku, Ghana, getting friends and classmates to donate old flip-flops and sandals. Just a few weeks before she collected a giant box full and sent them to Africa, all but two people in the entire town lived barefoot.
After they arrived, King received an email with pictures attached, showing that no one in the community had to live barefoot because of her efforts.
"It meant a lot to me, just for them to be able to use them. Just how direct of an impact it had," King said. "That was kind of touching. Just to see how it really did help and people all the way in Africa."
For her dedication to community service, athletics and academics, King has been named the Baltimore Sun's Hayley Milbourn Integrity Award winner. She will be honored at a ceremony Thursday at The Sun, where the boys and girls high school Athletes of the Year will also be announced.
King was also one of 12 students nationally to be named a finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman, which is awarded based on excellence in athletics, community service and academics. At the award ceremony in New York, King heard about the small community in Ghana. She wanted to go on a mission trip, but the cost were too expensive, so she decided to collect shoes.
"She wanted to do something in our community," King's mother, Debbie, said. "So many kids have the attitude that, if it doesn't benefit them, they don't care. It was special to know that Danielle cares enough."
King, who ranks second in her graduating class with a 4.23 GPA, is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society and student government, serving as class vice president. She is an American Red Cross blood drive coordinator and walks dogs for the Harford County Humane Society.
No different from her work in school and in the community, King stands out in athletics. A four-year member of the C. Milton Wright swimming and field hockey teams, she earned first-team All-Harford honors in both sports this past year.
King swam competitively for most of her life, hitting the pool as many as eight times a week. But after her freshman year of high school, she felt burnt out. She couldn't devote as much time to both sports as she wanted. King continued to swim for her school, but other than that, she decided to focus more time on her other sport.
"I got sick and I felt like I was getting worn out a little bit," said King, who admitted her father was a little disappointed in her decision to not devote all her time to the pool. "It got to the point where I could only go to one or two swim practices a week. I was learning a lot about field hockey, and I really liked being around the team."
Although she was new to the sport, King enjoyed working with a team much more than the individual and time-driven aspect of swimming. During swim meets, the pressure was all on King. On the field, she could enjoy working as a unit to achieve one goal.
"The stress and the pressure to always get that best time was a lot," said Debbie King, who is also the Mustangs' swimming coach. "You get to that age where you're not growing and it's hard to improve your times."
Danielle King started in the recreational field hockey program, but she showed promise. The team's coaches pushed her to compete at a higher level and to dedicate more time to the sport by playing indoor club and for futures teams.
Now, King is preparing to play field hockey at Davidson College in North Carolina this fall. She plans on studying biology and attending medical school after graduation. In the end, King has no regrets about giving up competitive swimming to pursue a team sport she started late.
She also recognizes that, like her field hockey career, she wouldn't have been able to change as many lives in Ghana all by herself.
"Everyone else was so useful in helping collect sandals," she said, "it made my job easier."