Henry and Hayleigh Patterson with teacher Ms. Tomkins.
Henry and Hayleigh Patterson with teacher Ms. Tomkins.
An Ann Smith second-grader thought she would be performing in honor of her father, a National Guardsman stationed in Kuwait, but when the curtains opened she was surprised to see him standing on the stage.

“We talk all the time on Facebook and she sends me these cards that I read every day. She had been telling me that she was narrating a play at her school and that she wished I could be there. When I found out I was coming back I worked with her mom and her principal to surprise her,” National Guard Specialist Henry Patterson said.

He is the father of Ann Smith Elementary second-grader Hayleigh Patterson, a bright seven-year-old who likes reading and science. She said it was just another program in the gymnasium until the curtains opened.

“At first I thought it was a dream,’ Patterson said. “I felt happy and excited. It was the best surprise.”

Specialist Patterson said it was a “special” feeling.

“Man it was exciting. My heart skipped a beat and everything. When she saw me she paused, I don’t know if she recognized me at first, but then she just came running into my arms,” he said. “It was the first time I had seen my baby cry like that. I am just happy to be home and reunited with my daughter.”

By most reports, there was not a dry eye in the room.

“I cried and he asked me if I was excited and I said I was so excited and I cried and I hugged him,” Hayleigh Patterson said.

Her mom, Shakiva Conerly, said that she was so happy the school worked hard to accommodate them. Principal Karen Harness and Assistant Principal Adam Frazier made sure that media in attendance were inconspicuously escorted into the gymnasium so as not to alert Patterson to the surprise.

“I am just glad she is happy and that we could make this surprise happen,” Conerly said. “I just want to thank everyone at the school and specifically her teacher Allison Tomkins for making this a reality.”