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Church helps families with Daddy Daughter Dance Kara Witherow, Mar 15, 2012
Norman Hoover attends with his daughter, Leah. Leesburg UMC started the annual community dance in 2010 to help strengthen parental ties between fathers and daughters.
By Kara Witherow Special Contributor
It is a well-known and documented fact that fathers wield enormous influence over their daughters’ lives, and the bond they share is a special, unique one.
The lyrics of a popular song even state the importance of a father’s role in his daughter’s life: “Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.”
In an effort to help strengthen and encourage that critical relationship, Leesburg United Methodist Church in the South Georgia Conference hosts the annual Lee County Daddy Daughter Dance, now in its fourth year. A popular event in Lee County, the dance has become one of the hottest tickets in town.
Begun in 2009 by the Rev. Mike Lyons and Leesburg UMC members, the event was born out of their desire to do something that would bless the community and help promote healthy family relationships.
“We want young ladies to know healthy, wholesome treatment by the man who loves them the most—their daddies,” said Mr. Lyons, senior pastor at the church. “We hope that this will make a difference in how they filter who they will be with, later in life. We really try to make it the kind of thing where the dad is the best thing that’s ever happened to that girl.”
In 2010, 350 father-daughter couples attended the Daddy Daughter Dance, which had to be moved from the former YMCA to the larger Lee County Elementary School gymnasium. Even more attended last year, necessitating a second time slot. This year the dance, held on Saturday, Feb. 11, hosted more than 1,200 fathers and daughters. So many wanted to attend that organizers had to offer three dances to accommodate everyone, and the 6-8 p.m. dance was a sellout.
A day of fun
Gabriel Lord, a father of three girls, attended two of the night’s dances. He took daughter Sydney, 4, to the evening’s earliest dance, held from 4-5:30 p.m. Geared toward the younger crowd with butterflies, flowers and “princess music,” the night was a little girl’s dream. Mr. Lord took daughters Carmen, 11, and Billie, 12, to a later dance. The family’s entire day was spent preparing for the fun and memorable evening. Mr. Lord’s wife Terra volunteered during the 6-8 p.m. dance.
“A lot of special time we have together is just getting ready,” Mr. Lord said. “We have music playing and we dance around the house. It’s a day where we don’t focus on anything but having fun and getting ready for that night.”
This was Billie’s third Daddy Daughter Dance. A sixth-grade student at Lee County Middle School, she enjoys dressing up and spending time with her dad.
“My favorite part of the night was spending time with my dad and not worrying about anything, just having a free night with him and spending time with him,” she said. “It was wonderful. It was a memorable, perfect night.”
The dance gives Mr. Lord and his daughters the opportunity to spend one-on-one time together, something that’s hard to come by with schedules filled with school, volleyball, homework, chores and work.
“While we’re there, everything else just goes away. Nothing else matters. Homework doesn’t matter, grades don’t matter, doing chores, my job—none of that matters. We’re just there and we’re together and everything else goes away,” he said.
“The girls have told me that they enjoy it because, for a little while, they get me all to themselves. It’s a time for them to have dad time and not worry about anything else. It’s great one-on-one time. It’s really special.”
Months of planning and preparation went into making the dance a special night. Dozens of volunteers worked hard to transform the gymnasium into a wonderland. Cloth-draped tables were scattered around the floor, a pink canopy was hung from the ceiling, and colorful flowers, balloons and paper lanterns decorated the venue. A disk jockey spun age-appropriate music and a professional photographer took photos; each couple received a 5x7 print to take home as a memento.
“When ‘Cinderella’ by Stephen Curtis Chapman is played, there’s not a dry eye in the building,” Mr. Lyons said. “You see every daddy get misty hugging his little girl. It’s a beautiful thing.” Event co-coordinators Michelle Hoover and Jonathan Lyons say that the dance is a great way for the church to witness to the community.
“I think it’s important for us to model the relationship between a daughter and her dad just as they would have with our Father in heaven and what a healthy family relationship looks like,” said Jonathan Lyons, 17, who is Mr. Lyons’ son.
“For me, as a mother of two girls, it’s very good to see the close bond between a daddy and daughter, and to have a special night just for them,” said Ms. Hoover, a mother of four.
A double blessing
This dance is strictly for fathers and daughters—no mothers allowed.
That’s by design, Mr. Lyons said. “What’s unique about this is that it offers a safe and healthy way for daddies to enter into the world of their daughters.”
Mothers go to baseball games and are Scout den mothers, but fathers rarely enter into their daughters’ worlds so deeply, he said. “Girls look forward to getting all gussied up, and this is a perfect way for the daddy to enter into that time with her.”
One mom wanted so badly to attend the dance and take photos that she had her 80-year-old dad accompany her.
The dance is a double blessing for the community, organizers say. The proceeds from each ticket ($10 per person for the early dance; $12 for the later dances) are immediately put into the church’s mission fund.
With money generated from ticket sales, the church is able to provide two meals for the high school’s football team, has purchased playground equipment, and offers camp scholarships.
“We want to be a blessing to the community,” Mr. Lyons said. “We want to show that we as a church legitimately care about the community. This is one way to show the community that the church is not invisible, to show that we really care authentically and deeply, and care about meeting a personal need in their lives.”
So, fathers, be good to your daughters. Next year’s Lee County Daddy Daughter Dance is set for Feb. 9, 2013.
Ms. Witherow is editor of the Advocate, the newspaper of the South Georgia Conference.