Thanks to one man's thoughtful idea, these kids with HIV had a day they'll never forget.
**Danny wanted nothing more than to bring a little light and joy to children living with HIV. Watch his story and see how Delta made this magical day possible.**
Danny grew up in Medellín, Colombia, as part of a large, close-knit family.
He speaks of his hometown wistfully from his office in New York. "We don't have seasons," he said. "We have the eternal spring."
Danny describes the flowers, festivals, and fresh air with a degree of detail and charm normally reserved for guidebooks. Medellín is a place that's close to his heart.
"My family is very paisa," he said, using the colloquial term to describe people from the coffee-growing region of Colombia. Traditionally, "paisa families are big, big, big." Danny was the oldest of four children and grew up surrounded by many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
His family instilled the importance of service at a very young age.
"My family is very very humble ... they always teach me to help others." Danny said.
Danny loved to dance, and as young as 12, he would teach small classes and put on shows around the neighborhood. Anything he could to give back.
"I grew up a really happy kid and a really happy teenager," he said.
That joy and generosity of spirit would one day guide Danny back home to Medellín.
Though he loved his home in Colombia, Danny moved to the U.S. five years ago.
"I love my place. I love my culture and I love my country and my city," he said. "But, it's different when you come [to the United States]. There's more opportunities."
Danny works as a program coordinator for a nonprofit providing resources and assistance to people living with HIV. Danny, who is HIV-positive himself, sees this as an opportunity to break down the preconceived notions that still surround the disease.
"The face of HIV and AIDS is really, really bad," Danny said. "When people think about AIDS and HIV, they think about death. But I'm living with HIV, four years now. I'm trying to change the face. I'm trying to minimize the stigma."
So Danny entered Delta's "My Next Trip Back" contest, with the goal of not only going back, but giving back.
He wanted to throw a party for the children of the Niños del Sol foundation, a nonprofit organization in his hometown of Medellín.
"The children are there, and they need us."
Niños del Sol provides room, board, education, and support for 15 children ages 4 to 15 living with or affected by HIV. The children live at the large ranch home under the supervision of site director Paula Nicholls and her mother Maria Ortiz.
When Danny won the contest, he was overjoyed!
"It was amazing because I knew this was not only my dream," he said.
This was his chance to return to a place he loved to bring joy and positivity to the community that gave him so much.
With support from Delta, Danny traveled to Medellín to provide an afternoon of carefree fun for the kids of Niños del Sol.
It was a day full of face-painting and crafts...
...puppets and games...
...and plenty of music and dancing.
For a few hours, the children weren't patients. They were just kids. The way it should be.
"For me, they are only children," Danny said. "And we have a party as children."
Danny hopes to put together a show with the help of a New York-based dance academy to raise money and awareness for Niños del Sol. And he became close with Paula, the group's director.
"Paula is very paisa, so we really match really good," he said with a laugh. "We talk almost every day, and we are keeping in touch through Facebook."
While his win earned him an unforgettable trip, Danny remains humble and hopeful.
He said the reason he did this was for visibility — not for himself, but for anyone struggling with the stigma around HIV.
"I don't want to be famous ... I want visibility," he said. "To have visibility, you can change minds."
Because in the end, he's doing it especially for the kids. "The most important thing: The children are there, and they need us."