The girls were dressed in their Sunday best and the men wore suits and ties at the first annual father/daughter dance Saturday afternoon at the Liberty County YMCA.
Organized by YMCA membership director Josette Gordon and front-desk assistant Luann Moore, the dance was a unique opportunity allowing both military and civilian dads a chance for some one-on-one time with their daughters on the eve of Father’s Day.
“It’s a military town and mostly everything done is for the military, and we decided we would do something for all the fathers,” Moore said. “It’s mixed civilian and military. The military has done a lot in protecting us, but there are other fathers (who do) their duty and we are trying to show them appreciation as well.”
Gordon and Moore set up games that allowed the participants to mingle and get to know each other as well as music for the dance and food for the guests.
“We have Shane’s ribs, who sponsored the food tonight and it looks fantastic,” Gordon said. “All the funds today will go to our Priceless Gift Campaign, which allows low-income and fixed-income families in the area to afford memberships for our programs here.”
Megan Kovich, 11, and her dad, Daniel Van Heyningen, hit the dance floor and Kovich said she was impressed with her dad’s footwork.
“I didn’t know that,” she said, realizing her dad was a good dancer. “It was a surprise.”
Heyningen returned in December from a deployment in Iraq and said he was happy to see his daughter and wife eagerly awaiting his return.
“And this is the first chance we’ve had to do something together,” he said about the dance.
“It’s really special because, honestly, the only thing we’ve ever really done together is get my hair cut and then go get frozen yogurt,” Kovich added. “So this is a really big thing and it’s really nice.”
Kovich admitted having a difficult time with school and trouble sleeping while her dad was deployed “And when he came back, I almost cried — OK, I cried,” she said.
Dan Cooke and his daughter Faith, 13, saw the dance as an opportunity to add to their Father’s Day celebration.
“We found out that they were going to be doing this, and we decided to come out because its Father’s Day tomorrow and this was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with your daughter,” Dan Cooke said. “I know my daughter was thrilled when I told her about it, and we’ve been looking forward to it for the last week and a half. There are a lot of kids out there and they are having a lot of fun and it’s great to see the little ones out there and smiles on everybody’s faces.”
Faith Cooke said she still had a surprise to give to her dad Sunday but said she loved the dance.
“It’s really cool and a good experience,” she said.
“It’s something different to do,” said Joel O’Malley, who was dancing with his 4-year-old daughter, Laci.
“I was deployed for a year and I didn’t get to see her too much, so this is something nice for me and her to spend some time together. It’s nice to get dressed up and come down here and spend some time with my daughter,” O’Malley said.
“It’s great — it’s a lot better than being away from them,” said Brandon Rudi, who brought his 5-year-old daughter, Abigail, to the dance.
Rudi was deployed in support of Operation New Dawn as a medic with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade. He returned in December, and he said this was his first time attending a father/daughter function.
“She hit a growth spurt,” he said, recalling how different his daughter looked when he returned. “I was pretty amazed, she grew about 6 inches.
Heyningen said he would like to have more opportunities to spend fun time with his daughter.
“If they would do it more than once a year at different times … there are all sorts of stuff they do for fathers and sons, but there is not a lot for fathers and daughters. You have to really look to find stuff for fathers and daughters,” he said.