‘I loved her first’

Third-grader Anisah Hidalgo and her dad Mark walk the red carpet to the dance room.

by Carolyn Kaberline
Special to The Leaven

TOPEKA — Preschooler Maddie Nichol giggled with delight as her father Jason Nichol spun her around, often literally sweeping her off her feet. Around them, other father-daughter couples danced to the music, as disco-type lights brightened the Mater Dei gym, transforming it into a magical place for the school’s second daddy-daughter dance.

“The PTO asked parents for input about the activities they would like to see, and this was on the list,” said Andrea Hillebert, Mater Dei principal. “They implemented it last year, and it was such a big success, they brought it back.

“Mindy Gilgannon, a member of the PTO board,” Hillebert continued, “has taken the lead on this event, and she selected the theme for this year. This year, it was: ‘Ties and Tiaras.’ Last year, it was ‘Sparkle and Shine.’”

During the course of the evening, the couples danced to a variety of tunes provided by DJs Drew and Karen Walker of Solid Rock Sound Machine. Dance titles ranged from the “Texas Two-Step” and “La Macarena” to “The Twist” and the ever-popular “Chicken Dance.” Some tunes saw the fathers letting their daughters go it alone; others led to the group singing along with songs as they danced.

And, of course, there were plenty of refreshments provided by the PTO.

“I think our ladies enjoy a reason to dress up and come and dance the night away,” said Hillebert. “Our gentlemen guests treat them to a night of fun. We are so blessed by the positive male role models we have in our community.”

While some of the participants listed the “music, refreshments and being with their friends” as the best part of the evening, others told of how special the event was to them.

Fourth-grader Beatrice Herreman noted that “usually girls spend time with their moms, but this is a time to spend with our dads.”

Miranda Hillebert, an eighth-grader, believed that activities like this helped to build unity in the school.

“Spending time with our dads helps bring the whole school together,” she said. “The dads will start talking to each other when the kids get together and dance. It makes for a closer bond.”

The fathers also believed the dance was something special.

For Nichol, the dance was “a great time to spend with my daughter Maddie. It shows her how important she is. It’s one night a year for just the two of us to have a fancy dinner and time together.”

Jim Grollmes of Perry found the evening extra-special since it was his granddaughter, sixth-grader Katherine Bartlett, who had asked him to accompany her — to her first dance.

“It’s a beautiful opportunity where we can spend time together,” he said, “and walk down a red carpet.”

For most, the two-hour event seemed to end too soon, but there is little doubt it will become an annual event.

“We also hold an event for moms and sons,” Hillebert said, “our ‘Mom and Son Knight.’”

“That event is not a dance,” she hastened to add.

“Last year, we played bubble soccer,” she said. “This year, we hosted a gaming night.”

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