Knight Parents Establish the Danny Solis Pedroza Endowed Legacy Scholarship

Above, Danny Pedroza enjoys looking at the wonderful sights of Christmas

By Camille Dolan ’98

Teresa and Carlos Pedroza are Knight parents – son Gabriel is a freshman; son Danny will never officially become a Knight, but his legacy for all of Knight Nation is guaranteed.

The Pedroza family recently established the Danny Solis Pedroza Endowed Legacy Scholarship to honor Danny’s life and resilience. Danny, at 24, has overcome significant challenges in his life due to a severe anoxic brain injury at birth leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and a long list of other medical conditions.

When Danny was 3 months old, doctors delivered a grim prognosis to the Pedroza family, suggesting that their son might not survive beyond his first birthday due to the extensive and severe brain damage he had suffered.

Unwilling to accept this fate, the Pedrozas sought the best physicians and therapies for their son to offer him the best possible quality of life. Against all odds, Danny has defied expectations and is the driving force of the family.

Carlos and Teresa Pedroza recognize that although Danny is nonverbal, he is far from silent.  He comprehends the language of love and kindness, serving as a unifying presence within their family, imparting profound lessons in love. The Pedrozas yearn for the world to see Danny for who he truly is, desiring nothing more than for him to be acknowledged and understood.

When Gabriel was born, Danny was 5 years old. Navigating Danny’s wheelchair and Gabriel’s stroller simultaneously proved challenging, so Teresa often seated Gabriel on Danny’s lap when they ran errands.

As Gabriel grew and began to walk, he steadfastly stayed by Danny’s side, acting as a shield against unwelcome glances and comments.

Despite being the younger sibling, he assumed the role of a vigilant protector. The Pedrozas chose the name Gabriel for him in honor of the archangel Gabriel because his presence brought blessings and mended their hearts. He truly completed their family.

“From a very early age, Gabe accompanied Danny to all of his therapy and doctor appointments, and Danny attends many of Gabe’s sporting and school activities,” Teresa says.

In a family photo celebrating Gabe’s admission to UCF, every person, including Danny, is wearing UCF tee shirts. Gabe is planning to seek a career in the medical field, the Pedrozas say.

When the family moved to Oviedo seven years ago, UCF was not even on their radar. They had vacationed at the theme parks, and they had family in the area, so that was a draw. But the major factors in their decision to relocate were finding the best school district for Gabe, as well as proximity to a major medical system for Danny.

It did not take long for the Pedroza family to notice the influence of UCF and to become some of their biggest fans. “UCF has become a part of our life,” Teresa says.

Carlos Pedroza initially brought up the idea of establishing a scholarship to honor Danny.

“We participate in different activities in the community, and we always see people being honored for their philanthropy,” Teresa says. “Carlos told me he wanted Danny to be associated with UCF forever.”

In determining the best way to honor Danny, the Pedrozas established the scholarship for UCF students with a demonstrated commitment to a health-related degree.

“From Danny’s very first days on Earth – before we even left the hospital,” Teresa says, “I was already meeting with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists. They had to conduct their initial evaluations.”

Not only was Danny in contact with the therapists on a regular basis for his first few years, but so was Teresa. “They were my therapists at the same time,” Teresa says. “I feel a debt of gratitude to them because they kept me sane, because they dealt with parents like me day in and day out.”

A speech therapist, in particular, showed Teresa the technique for feeding a child like Danny, whose neurological injuries can sometimes make it impossible for them  to feed from a bottle.

“To suck a bottle,” Teresa says, “the child has to ‘suck, swallow, breathe, suck, swallow, breathe. At the same time, his chin has to be supported in a certain way.”

It was difficult, but Teresa was determined. So was Danny.

The two worked together to master the art of bottle feeding, and for ten years, Danny did not have to have a feeding tube. Eventually, he needed a feeding tube because he needed more calories for his growing body, and the feeding tube just made more sense, Teresa says.

When the Pedrozas named the scholarship, they also wanted to pay tribute to the memory of Teresa Pedroza’s parents, Julia Chapa Solis and Martin Solis, who both passed away in 2008.

“My parents loved Danny unconditionally, and he thrived in their care,” Teresa says. Because of the significant role that my parents played in our lives, Danny’s first few years would have been absolutely impossible without their constant, loving support.”

Not only do the Pedroza family want Danny remembered for who he is, their greatest wish is to, perhaps, help others foster a sense of empathy and humanity toward people like Danny.

“Cerebral palsy is a spectrum,” Teresa says. “UCF has probably had many individuals with cerebral palsy who have gone through their college education because its effects range from invisible to highly visible. Danny is on the extreme end of the spectrum and sometimes people don’t ‘see’ him. I just want him to be acknowledged as a member of the family and as a part of our community. We are proud of both our sons, and they will both keep Charging On.”

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