“…It’s what you do with what you got.”
When Danny Frasier was a little boy in New York, he and his adopted and foster siblings were so enthralled by the Helen Keller story, The Miracle Worker, they begged their mother to continually rent it from the local video store.
Eventually, the store owner was so taken by the children’s love of the story, especially the enthusiasm of the tiny doe-eyed Danny, she gave them the video.
That story is made even sweeter in that, two decades later, Danny was awarded the 2011 Helen Keller Courage Award in a special ceremony in June in Tuscumbia during the annual Helen Keller Festival.
But that award doesn’t surprise Danny’s many friends and large family. His slogan is: "It’s not what you don’t have. It’s what you do with what you got."
Danny’s parents, Sandi and Rod Frasier, moved from New York to Blount County in 1999, having raised their four biological children and more than 50 foster kids, and then adopting Danny and six others. Danny provided the biggest challenges.
"I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome," he explained. "My birth mother was on drugs and alcohol when she was pregnant with me.
"I was born prematurely, weighing one pound and two ounces. Small head, no bridge to my nose, wide-set eyes and bone deformities. The little things that were my legs were wrapped up in knots underneath me. I was asthmatic, allergic to almost every known antibiotic, deaf in my left ear, little hearing in my right and I had a plethora of other conditions."
Sandi remembers getting that fateful call from New York caseworker Mary Farren. "She said they had this little boy. He probably wouldn’t make it. I said I’d come and look at him.
"We got Danny out of the hospital when he was three months old and barely four pounds," Sandi explained. "They said he wouldn’t make it to through the winter."
The family placed him in a wicker laundry basket so they could carry Danny around with them since he had to be fed every 20 minutes around the clock.
"Every time I’d take him back to the doctor for his check ups and he’d made it a little longer, they were shocked," Sandi explained.
Now 28 years old, Danny continues to shock the world with all he CAN do and DOES.
His lack of legs (his tiny appendages were amputated to help him live when he was just a tiny infant) hasn’t prevented him from working as a SECURITY GUARD no less and a car detailer, AND from tooling around the state in his big Chevy pickup.
But it’s Danny’s singing and motivational speaking that really makes him stand out from the crowd. He’s sung on stage with everybody from the group Alabama to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. And his performances as the "Little Elvis" have led him into all sorts of venues.
"He’s just never been afraid to try anything," Sandi explained, and God’s providence has seemed to have a hand in many areas.
"In New York, Danny was in the orchestra. When we moved to Blount County and he was at Cleveland High School, he came home and said he wanted to be in the band. With his love for music, I didn’t think that was unusual until he said he was going to be in the MARCHING band!"
The Cleveland faculty and students worked with Danny in every way possible. One season, he marched onto the field (walking on his hands which he says is much faster than trying to manipulate on artificial legs) with a tambourine hanging from a saxophone strap around his neck. That year in the stands he played the bass drum.
One year the Panther Band’s show featured cowboy outfits. The highlight of each halftime was when Danny climbed the drum major’s tower, decked out in his cowboy hat and fringed cowboy shirt, and played his guitar with the band!
When Danny was still a youngster in New York, he loved listening to Sandi’s Peter, Paul and Mary albums repeatedly. His grandpa taped their music from a PBS show and he watched it every day.
When the family moved to Alabama, Sandi and Rod saw where Yarrow was to perform at UAB, but, when they called, there were no reservations left. After Danny wrote a personal letter, he was invited to not only attend but perform.
Peter taught Danny his song "Don’t Laugh at Me" and they performed it together that night on stage.
Danny now explains, "I sing that song almost everywhere I go. The words just sum up what I want to say so often. The chorus talks about not laughing at others, ‘don’t get your pleasure from my pain…in God’s name we’re all the same.’"
Likewise, God’s providence also led him to sing with the group. A special teacher in New York had taught him the song "Angels Among Us" on the guitar. After he’d performed on stage with a female country singer, the way opened for him to sing that song with his new state’s group and they’ve been friends ever since.
Danny’s testimony and how he came to know Jesus Christ personally is also an integral part of his life after examining all sorts of theological questions.
In his book, "Has Anybody Seen My Shoes?" Danny explained, "Some taught me I was to consider all the things in this life to be unreal, as if only a dream. Others offered me an opportunity to EARN a spot in the eternal, like I could really do that. But it was only the teachings of Jesus Christ that fully answered the questions of real connection with God."
Danny’s attitude is one of happiness through just about anything and his sense of humor is legendary among his friends (thus his book’s title!).
"I think my purpose in life is to encourage people," Danny explained. "A lot of times people will look at me and think, ‘If that guy can do this, I can do anything.’"
If you’d like to contact Danny about performing as "Elvis" or for a gospel concert for your church, or as a motivational speaker for your group of any type phone (205) 353-1341 or (205) 559-8005, or his website at www.freewebs.com/littleelvis4you.
Suzy Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County who can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.