There is something special about dancing with your dad. I remember everything, down to the music playing the first time I danced with my father.
Twirling me around the living room, Dad whispered some of Al Martino’s “Daddy’s Little Girl” in my ear: “You’re the treasure I cherish so sparkling and bright. You were touched by the holy and beautiful light. Like angels that sing a heavenly thing, and you’re Daddy’s little girl.”
The last time we danced was at my wedding. Dad picked “My Girl” by the Temptations.
Precious memories. They’re the kind that Jimmy Stopper, founder of Men of Armor, was looking to create with his daughter six years ago.
Stopper was disappointed with his first Daddy-Daughter Dance.
“Dads were on their phones, daughters were grouped together, and the music was not what I wanted to dance to with my daughter,” said Stopper who lives in Holly Springs with his wife and four children.
Through the nonprofit Stopper runs, he knew it was possible to create an event that connects dads with daughters and that is centered on Christ. Stopper wanted the music to be oldies style or Christian.
In 2011, Stopper’s dream became a reality when Men of Armor hosted its first dance. From registration, to pictures to jitterbug dance lessons, dads and daughters are encouraged to strengthen their relationships.
At the end of the evening, couples receive a certificate to take home that includes the number of “date nights” the dads and daughters will have together until the next dance.
Emma Grace, Stopper’s daughter, is now 14, the age when most teens don’t want to hang out with their dads.
The dances and follow-up opportunities for date nights have kept the lines of communication open between Emma Grace and her father.
“It helps me feel comfortable talking to Dad about things,” said Emma Grace. “I don’t ever think I’m too cool for my Dad now that I'm older.”
This is the fifth year for the Men of Armor Daddy-Daughter Dance. Or should I write dances? The event sold out so quickly that Stopper added a second night last year. The second night sold out quickly, too.
Dads with more than one daughter come both nights. One dad traveled from Salt Lake City last year. Many couples make the dance a tradition every year.
Stopper plans a message that gives fathers tips on how to be a father daughters will respect. Girls hear an encouraging presentation, too.
“The dances learned and experience can last until a father gives his daughter’s hand over in marriage,” Stopper said.
The dances are having an effect on Stopper’s daughter, who is a role model for younger girls attending the events.
“I think girls need to always keep in mind that they have a Dad who loves them,” said Emma Grace. “Dads want the best for you, and he also wants you to have fun.”
More than 700 are expected to attend the dances, and several couples are on a waiting list.
To help fill the need for more dances, Stopper is working with Summit Church to plan an event for church members. Plans are in the works for more churches to host events next year.
Men of Armor Daddy-Daughter dances will be Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. and 6 at noon and 6 p.m. at Triangle Community Church, 4216 Kildaire Farm Road in Apex. The dance is suggested for ages 3 to 18. Go to menofarmor.com.