JACKSON TWP.  There was a perfect early summer, blue sky dotted with billowing white clouds on June 1 in Jackson Township’s North Park. It was the perfect sky to install a new memorial weathervane on top of the MJD Memorial Gazebo, one of the park’s standout features. 

Mike Danner, his wife Dawn and his mother Mary Lou Wilton came to the park that morning to replace a damaged weathervane with a new one specially made to top their son’s memorial gazebo. The Danners lost their son, Michael Jay Danner, who was 16 years old at the time, in a tragic dirt bike accident. 

After the accident on May 1, 2005, the family wanted to find a way to honor their son for the many joys he brought to his family and for the many contributions he provided to others during his short life.  Michael Jay was an organ donor and while his life was cut short, he helped extend the lives of eight people with the donation of his heart and internal organs. 

Mike Danner is a Jackson Township park employee and come up with the idea of building a gazebo in the North Park as a memorial to his son.

“Our family started fundraising for the idea by selling bracelets and stickers at Jackson High School and Central Catholic High School,” Danner said. “We also started a poker run in September 2005 to help raise money for the gazebo. I asked the Sol Harris/Day architect firm to design the gazebo and talked with Schoeppner Construction about building it. One weekend Wally Schoeppner called me up and said let’s get started.”

Plans for the gazebo began to take shape as a way to ensure that Michael Jay Danner’s memory was kept alive as part of his community. 

Mike Danner said up to 30 people helped build the gazebo. It took friends and family working every weekend for a year to get the gazebo built, but it was finally dedicated to Michael Jay in July 2006. 

According to Mike Danner, he noticed that the weathervane on top of the gazebo was showing weather damage. He decided to get it replaced, but that was no simple endeavor.

He searched for a craftsman that could make the weathervane out of stainless steel. The search extended well beyond the borders of Jackson Township and the state of Ohio, but he finally found Mark Harrell in Red Rock, Tex.

The Danner family paid $1,800 for the new weathervane and donated it to Jackson Township. To further the connection between the family and community, the Danners also worked with the agriculture program at Jackson Local Schools to do new landscaping around the gazebo this year. 

The family also helped raise money for scholarships through over 10 years through the poker run events and while the poker runs have ended, Danner is working on starting a golf outing to continue to raise scholarship money.  Those who want to join the golf outing can reach Mike Danner at 330-844-7660.

The newly installed weathervane made an impression on the morning sky. The family was pleased with the weathervane itself and the way it looks on top of the gazebo. 

Working on the gazebo project and holding the fundraisers has helped the family in many ways. 

“Michael would be 28 years old today, doing all of this has been a diversion to help keep all of us busy and we hope that he is looking down and is happy with what we have done,” Dawn Danner said.