Dukes of Hazzard star befriends East TN woman living with multiple brain disorders

Tennessee News

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) Almost 30 years ago, Lori Vance birthed her daughter Donna Joy who wasn’t expected to survive.

Donna Joy lives with five brain disorders that are usually fatal, but she continues to prove probability wrong.

“Multiple parts of her brain and brain stem never developed…part of her brain that was there was actually exterior to her skull and hanging outside at birth,” Vance said. “It had to be removed when she was a couple of months old. Even though [doctors] said she would not live through the rest of the pregnancy or she would die the minute the cord was cut, she will be 30 years old next Thanksgiving, so this Thanksgiving she’ll be 29.”

Vance told WJHL that a couple of months ago, Donna Joy experienced one of the biggest turnarounds of her life when she met John Schneider from The Dukes of Hazzard at his home in Lousiana.

“There was just this huge change in her,” Vance said. “I mean, her eyes… we saw this sparkle — her father and I just saw this sparkle in her face that we hadn’t seen in 10 years. It was like we got our little girl back. And you just can’t buy that.”

This wasn’t the usual meet and greet, though, because it wasn’t a one-time ordeal. Schneider and his wife continue to keep in touch with Donna Joy after spending a couple of days with their biggest fan.

Vance noticed that the actor and country singer went above and beyond to show Donna Joy that she isn’t just a fan; she’s a friend.

“A lot of television stars, a lot of celebrities — they’ll meet a child; they’ll say hello and goodbye, and that’s it,” Vance said. “There’s something special between John and Donna Joy that’s ongoing. He’s very interested in her welfare. We all keep in touch by text message and E-mail, and we exchange photographs.”

Donna Joy looks forward to seeing Schneider again in October, when he travels to Bulls Gap for Hazzard Fest 2020 Oct. 2 through the third.

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