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Josh Duhamel helps family honor the local golfer who dared to stand out

The actor and North Dakota native helped encourage the family of Danny Mapes to set up a charity in honor of the man who never let physical limitations get in the way of achieving his dreams.

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West Fargo native Danny Mapes became the first disabled person to attend and graduate from The Golf Academy of America. Before his death in December 2021, he inspired many to reach for their dreams.
Mapes family
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WEST FARGO — Most people's lives can’t be defined in a matter of seconds. But most people aren’t Danny Mapes.

Mapes, a West Fargo native, died at the age of 36 on the last day of 2021. But, in a way, his life was summed up 13 years earlier, in 2008, on an observation deck of America’s tallest building.

“He was deathly afraid of heights,” recalls his older brother, Chris Mapes, of that day on the skydeck of Chicago’s Willis Tower, 110 stories off the ground. Despite his fear, Danny rolled his wheelchair into the glass-encased ledge that jutted out from the building, enabling him to see the city 1,353 feet below.

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Danny Mapes was scared of heights, but nonetheless went on the ledge of The Willis Tower in Chicago. The glass encased box juts out of the building allowing a full view of the city 110 stories below.
Photo credit: Skydeck Chicago

Chris said after Danny faced his fear, he came inside and bought a souvenir wristband.

“It said ‘dare to stand out,’ which basically meant to be brave, to be bold, don’t be afraid to stand out, be different, don’t be afraid to chase your dreams or let limitations hold you back.”

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In other words, Danny Mapes in a nutshell.

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Chris Mapes looks through a photo album in his West Fargo home of photos of his brother, Daniel Mapes. The Mapes family lost Daniel this winter and are now setting up a charity in his name called Dare 2 Stand Out for people with disabilities.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Now with the help of his family and one Hollywood heavy hitter, the words on Danny’s wristband are the guiding mission that could inspire generations of new Dannys.

A smile from the start

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Chris said his younger brother Danny had many surgeries as a child, but he always managed to smile.
Contributed / Mapes family

Danny was born in the summer of 1985 to Gary and Sharon Mapes of West Fargo. He was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord and column don’t properly develop. Despite his physical limitations, Danny had no trouble keeping up with his three rambunctious older brothers.

“We’d play baseball, basketball, football, golf, anything to do with sports and he’d be right there with us. He loved every minute of it,” Chris said.

Chris said Danny always had a smile on his face no matter what he was up to.

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Danny Mapes, center, seen here with brothers Jeff and Chris, loved sports while growing up in West Fargo.
Contributed / Mapes family

“He just kind of knew that he was different and really took that to heart and just showed people that it's cool to be different, and to be accepting of people that are a little bit different,” Chris said.

Following graduation from West Fargo High School in 2004 and a short stint at Minnesota State University Moorhead, he worked for the West Fargo Park District as a youth baseball coach and mentor.

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But Danny wasn’t just interested in sports. He also took a job with one of his favorite country bands, 32 Below. He went on the road and saw the world with the musicians who eventually became like family to him. He even traded in his golf clubs and baseball bats for a guitar, although he never played onstage.

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Danny Mapes got some tips on playing the guitar from his friends in 32 Below.
Contributed / Mapes family

Florida calls

However, golf never really went away. Chris said one day while watching The Golf Channel, Danny saw an ad for The Golf Academy of America in Orlando, Fla.

“He just said at that moment he knew that’s what he wanted to do,” Chris said.

He became the first disabled student to attend and graduate from the academy. His passion became introducing children — both with and without special needs — to golf through programs such as Little Linksters and the G.O.A.L.S. program.

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Danny Mapes enjoys the beach with Chris Mapes and his children. Chris said Danny loved being an uncle.
Contributed / Mapes family

Chris said his brother loved teaching, but he also loved being around Disney World. He was such a fan that he even started a blog to help visitors navigate vacations there.

Despite living in Florida, Danny stayed close to family, often speaking to his dad a few times a day. When no one had heard from Danny around New Year’s Eve 2021, they started to worry. They called the police to do a welfare check, and sadly learned that Danny had died. The family recently found out that the cause of death was blood clots, a complication from COVID-19.

Chris said they were surprised because Danny’s symptoms had been mild and he was healthy and strong. Through their grief, the family started planning Danny’s funeral.

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Enter Josh Duhamel

Following Danny’s death, actor Josh Duhamel, who is friends with Chris Mapes and his wife, Kelly, was talking about golfing in the upcoming AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

“So Josh said, ‘I’d like to do something in Danny’s memory. Is he involved in a charity or anything?’ I said, ‘well, not really.’ So Josh said, ‘let’s set something up then,'” Chris recalled.

Actor Josh Duhamel in front of the Fargo Theatre on Sunday, August 16, 2015. Rick Abbott / The Forum
Actor Josh Duhamel in front of the Fargo Theatre on Aug. 16, 2015.
Forum file photo

A few months later, a charity honoring Danny was born. Its name is “Dare 2 Stand Out” in honor of that day in Chicago when Danny faced his fear and became the living embodiment that nothing should be out of reach.

Duhamel won $10,000 for the charity, and Chris is hoping to have more events along the way to help create and fund opportunities for young people to enjoy and love sports the way Danny did. For more information, visit the charity's website at https://chrismapes0.wixsite.com/d2so-1.

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Danny Mapes gives a young golfer advice on the range.
Contributed / Mapes family

Chris said he thinks Danny would be humbled that a charity was being set up to carry on his life’s work.

And the irony isn’t lost on any of Danny’s big brothers that the little boy who once tagged along behind them on the football field, baseball diamond and basketball court all those years ago is now leading the way for so many.

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"We laugh because when he was younger, the brothers and I would always beat him in golf, and then as we got older, the gap kept getting narrower and narrower and now we golfed last year and he beat me pretty easily," Chris Mapes said.
Contributed / Mapes family

“He really did pave his own path for a lot of things and followed his passions and dreams. A lot of people don’t do that,” Chris said. “Following your heart is so important. If you can live your life a little bit differently and maybe even make life a little bit better for somebody else, that's the kind of legacy I think Danny would like to be known for.”

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