ELYRIA — Attempting to match his four daughters’ dresses with a pink shirt and blue bowtie, Dante Tillman was dancing the night away with his girls Saturday.
Tillman, of Elyria, along with dozens of area dads attended the Ambassador Brothers of Lorain County’s fourth annual Father-Daughter dance at the Spitzer Conference Center; this year’s theme was “A King and His Princess,” with couples and families dressed to the nines for the evenings festivities.
“This is our third year, we missed last year because we were out of town, but this is an every year event,” Tillman said. “My girls, they look forward to it every single year. The Ambassador Brothers do a tremendous job with this, it’s become something that the little kids can look forward to every year, and it’s amazing.”
The event is a chance for fathers to build lasting memories and relationships with their daughters, Ambassador Brothers president Stephen Gettis said, and for those girls to see positive role models rather than some of the images they may see on TV or in their neighborhoods.
“The whole process, from going to pick out the dress to just creating those special moments and those memories so that when she becomes ‘of age,’ has a date, prom, she’s familiar with the process and she gets the process under her dad’s tutelage,” he said. “It’s a cool experience to give our daughters, because dad is the one kind of grooming them through the whole process.”
Tillman admitted with four girls — Cherish, 13, Cortlyn, 7, Cayden, 4, and Casi, 2 — he went for the first half of the dress-shopping adventure and opted for FaceTime for some of the shopping trips.
“With four daughters, it’s two or three sessions, five different stores,” he laughed.
The evening is a chance for him to bond with his daughters and give their mother a break, he joked. He noted the event has become a family affair, with his mother helping style some of the girls’ hair for the evening — making up for her having two sons and by doting on her grandchildren.
For Gettis, while his own stepdaughters are too old to think it’s “cool” to go to a dance with him, he said he volunteers every year and enjoys watching attendees create those memories with the women in their lives. And while his stepdaughters may not go to the dance with him, his 7-year-old son is learning how to be a gentleman from his father’s actions.
“Hopefully, it will just be a snowball effect into other things,” he said of the relationships attendees are fostering. “‘Dad, we had a great time doing this, we should do that.’ ‘Dad, we got dressed up, my school is having a dance, I need you to come and hang out with me at this dance.’ That has created an expectation, so the child is going to push that expectation. … So ultimately, when you go to the school and do different things with your child, for the kid who doesn’t have the father or the father-figure, they get a glimpse of what a man is supposed to be doing for his child: How they provide, how they interact, how they show support, how they love. So hopefully, those things transcend into other areas after today.”
Even with his oldest starting her teenage years, Tillman sees the dance continuing to be a staple for them Father’s Day weekend — ahead of the pampering he will receive today.
“The times with them, these memories right here you cherish them,” he said. “This is something we’re going to be able to do every year. I even look forward to when they get bigger, teenagers and even older to them coming down — It’s Father’s Day, and spending this time with us. This is something that we have created for our family.”
Ticket sales help support other Ambassador Brothers events, including the annual Taste of the South 3-on-3 basketball tournament later this summer, and its holiday party in December.
For more information, or to get involved with the Ambassador Brothers, visit their Facebook page.