Daughters donned long, flowing dresses and sparkling tiaras as they entered the Legends Club on Sunday, but the spotlight wasn’t on them.
Instead, the young girls and women linked arms with the evening’s real guests of honor: their fathers.
The sixth annual Father-Daughter Dinner & Dance Gala, presented by the O’Neal-Murphy Agency, provided fathers and daughters with a unique bonding opportunity, giving dads a Father’s Day experience they otherwise wouldn’t have, Chairman Bob O’Neal said.
“The concept is to create an atmosphere for the fathers and daughters to enjoy an evening together,” he said. “The magical part is just them being together and having a chance to talk on their own terms about whatever they wish.”
O’Neal’s daughter, LaTonya, said the talks she shared with her dad at a similar event in 2007 are what left an impression on her.
“I got to talk to him as a woman,” she said. “I had a chance to be with him all by myself, doing something that I love to do.”
Fathers and daughters were given plenty of opportunity to talk, but only after the daughters were crowned and photographed with their dads.
The fairy-tale atmosphere is what pushed Dru McCoy, of Augusta, to bring his 5-year-old daughter, Laurin, he said. After missing out on the event last year, McCoy said he wasn’t going to pass up on the chance again.
“She loves looking like a princess,” he said. “We’re always ballroom dancing at the house, so I figured this was something we could do for real. It’s everything I thought it would be.”
The father-daughter bond is important, especially in the younger years, McCoy said.
“It’s up to (the fathers) to set a certain standard of what they should accept from a guy,” he said. “We’ll be the first to open doors for them, help them out and talk to them before they get in their later years.”
Guest speaker Louise A. Rice, a former national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., quoted songs and poetry highlighting the importance of father figures in the lives of young women.
A ceremony recognized the oldest father and the father with the most daughters in attendance. Howard King, of Atlanta, took this year’s oldest father crown at age 87, besting the closest competitor by two months.
All proceeds from the gala, which included a silent auction, go directly to local charities, including the Ronald McDonald House, SafeHomes of Augusta and the James Brown Children Family Foundation.
“We’re doing two things: getting dads together and we’re raising funds to give to nonprofits, to the people who need it,” O’Neal said.