Before Gracee Nelson's father-daughter dance approached, her dedicated dad came up with a way to make this occasion as special as possible for his 5-year-old — even though he couldn't be there.
Christopher Nelson is a contractor for the Army and has been in Afghanistan since March. However, he still wanted his girl to feel like the "Belle of the ball" and refused to let his absence jeopardize her experience.
"We found out about the dance the very beginning of April," Gracee's mom, Lanya Nelson, 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."
Desperate to come up with a solution, Lanya came close to purchasing a $400 plane ticket so Gracee's uncle could escort her but the parents continued to brainstorm until they came up with a magical plan. "It was one of those moments you knew she was going to remember. I wanted it to be happy memory, not a sad memory," Lanya said. "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."
With this idea in mind, Gracee's parents arranged for a Beast character to surprise her for the event. "The Beast blew us away. He twirled her, he dipped her. He lifted her and was dancing with her," Lanya said. "She was literally the Belle of the ball. She was just beside herself — The fact that the Beast took her."
However, this Disney hero didn't completely replace the magical man in Gracee's life. For the next dance, Gracee noted that there's no one she'd rather have as her date than her daddy!