When one deployed dad found out he was going to miss his 5-year-old daughter’s first ever father-daughter dance, he was devastated but was determined to find the perfect person to fill in for him.
Christopher Nelson works as a contractor for the U.S. Army and has been deployed in Afghanistan since early March, and will be stationed there for the year. So when he and his wife Lanya Nelson heard that their 5-year-old daughter’s first father-daughter dance was being held while he was away, they knew they had to find a way to make it a good experience for her.
“We found out about the dance the very beginning of April. We live about 10 hours away from all family members, and I told her daddy wasn’t going to be able to come. He wouldn’t’ be home in time,” Lanya said about the moment she had to tell Gracee the news. “This was her first time being away from my husband for such a long period of time. She was so devastated. She bawled her eyes out. She’s such a daddy’s girl… It was heartbreaking for my husband too because this was his first dance he was going to miss of hers. And it was the big one -– the daddy-daughter dance.”
Other family members live hours away, so the Nelsons decided to have someone else step in for Christopher. “I was so close to getting a $400 plane ticket for her uncle. I didn’t want to break her heart,” Lanya said. “It was one of those moments you knew she was going to remember. I wanted it to be happy memory, not a sad memory. The theme of the dance was ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ And I’m like, ‘What if I contact the school and ask them if we can hire a character to take her?’ They thought it was such a wonderful idea.”
The Nelsons hired the Beast character from event company Magical Moments, and he surprised Gracee in the hallway outside of the dance. “Her face just lit up she was so happy. I have never seen my daughter that happy,” Lanya said. “He escorted her into the dance and all the kids were like, ‘Oh my god!'”
“The Beast blew us away. He twirled her, he dipped her. He lifted her and was dancing with her,” said Lanya. “He was dancing with all the kids. All the kids got a chance to dance with him and take pictures. She was literally the Belle of the ball. She was just beside herself — The fact that the Beast took her.” And although Christopher couldn’t physically go to the dance, they FaceTimed with him so she could see his little girl all dressed up.
“We were able to make lemonade out of lemons with our situation and still make a girl smile even though her dad wasn’t there,” Lanya said.
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[Featured image: Facebook/Lanya Nelson]