Alexandria Family Loses Son and Donates $10,000 for Sensory Room Upgrades

“Before he died we started to think of ways to help," said Daniel's mom Laura.

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The MacDonald Family gave back to ACPS because they know the Sensory Room can help other children like their son Daniel. (Photo: Casey Gammon)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Daniel MacDonald was just six-years old when he passed away in 2018, but thanks to a $10,000 donation from his family, he has left a legacy at Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School that will benefit other children.

His parents, Laura and Don, reached out to ACPS to make the generous offer in the months after their eldest son died from complications due to a severe epilepsy disorder.

They chose to support the school’s sensory room because it was one of the places where Daniel, who had profound disabilities, found happiness. Now, ACPS is able to add and update equipment and ensure the facility is in its best shape possible to serve other children.

Sensory Room Lifts Up Kids

“He would be noticeably brighter after his sessions in the sensory room,” said Laura MacDonald, an Alexandria realtor who has two other children. “He definitely really enjoyed his time there and he seemed to really enjoy being around other kids. The social interaction lifted him.”

“Although he was non-verbal, I could read his facial expressions and moods and it was very clear to me the benefit he received from his time in the room.”

Daniel was enrolled in a peer model preschool program run by ACPS known as Preschoolers Learning Together, where typically developing children are educated alongside youngsters with special needs.

He attended the morning sessions whenever his health allowed. During those hours, he spent time in the specially designed sensory room — a gently lit space which serves a variety of students with differing challenges and needs.

Similar to a soft playroom, it features padded, comfortable flooring, a combination of textures, colorful lighting, and objects that stimulate as well as calm.

Daniel’s Legacy

Daniel died two years ago, a life that his loved ones feared would be cut short due to the nature of his condition. The youngster deteriorated in early 2017 following a bout of pneumonia and complications that followed.

Palliative care then became the focus of his treatment in the months that followed.

Daniel’s mom Laura said, “His graduation from preschool in 2017 was emotional. I knew it was unlikely that he would be able to attend kindergarten and this would be his last experience of school. But that experience, although short, was a great one for him.”

“Before he died we started to think of ways to help.”

“It just seemed that donating to the sensory room would benefit kids with a host of different issues and it seemed a very positive thing to do.”

In the coming months, ACPS will host the MacDonalds at a small event at Jefferson-Houston and officially thank them for their contribution.

Theresa A. Werner, ACPS Executive Director of the Office of Specialized Instruction, said, “We are very grateful and honored to have received the donation in memory of Daniel MacDonald.”

“We look forward to sharing the new sensory room with everyone once the materials have been received.”

ALSO IN ALEXANDRIA: How One ACPS School is Helping Two Communities Become One