“Dad Overseas Sends ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Character to Daughter’s Dance in His Absence” originally appeared on ABC News and was reprinted with permission.
Little Gracee Nelson, 5, was truly the “Belle” of the ball at her father-daughter dance, despite at first being heartbroken that her dad wouldn’t be able to attend.
Her dad, Christopher Nelson, has been in Afghanistan since early March working as a contractor for the Army.
“We found out about the dance the very beginning of April,” Gracee’s mom, Lanya Nelson, of El Paso, Texas, told ABC News. “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. 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.”
After exhausting all efforts trying to get one of her grandfathers or uncles to attend the dance to no avail, the Nelsons brainstormed with each other on Facebook to come up with a plan fit for a princess.
“I was so close to getting a $400 plane ticket for her uncle. I didn’t want to break her heart,” Lanya nelson recalled. “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.”
In her dad’s absence, the creative parents sent the Beast character to escort Gracee in style, hiring the character from event company Magical Moments. The two danced the night away to the film’s iconic song, “Beauty and the Beast.”
“The Beast blew us away. He twirled her, he dipped her. He lifted her and was dancing with her,” said Lanya Nelson. “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.”
Next time though, “Let’s have daddy go,” Gracee told her mom.
It was a bittersweet moment for the family.
“It was heartbreaking for my husband too because this was his first dance he was going to miss of hers,” said Lanya Nelson. “And it was the big one -– the daddy-daughter dance. He was really sad about it too. But when we were at the dance we FaceTimed him to make it feel special and so he could see her in her dress.”
To see the big smile on Gracee’s face was “the best feeling in the world,” the proud mom added. “It was the feeling of, ‘We did it right.’ It felt good to know that we made her night together.”