“He showed that his father raised an outstanding young man who will be an excellent father himself someday,” Shane Santana, an attendee at the dance, told The Epoch Times.
Shane, 48, a program advisor at the Florida Institute of Technology, has been attending the daddy-daughter dances since his daughter, Tiffany Washington, was in prekindergarten.
When Tiffany—who is also known as Echo—attended kindergarten, Shane and his wife met many of her classmates’ parents, including those of a boy named DJ. But Shane only really got to know DJ’s parents, Dan and Debra, after a school function they attended when their children were in first grade.
Shane recalled that he had taken the morning off and had headed over to Denny’s for breakfast before going to work.
“I just sat down by myself,” said Shane, who lives in Cocoa. “And I didn’t realize [Dan and Debra] were sitting next to me.”
After noticing that Shane’s truck had stickers of the Chicago Cubs and Bears baseball teams, Dan struck up a conversation with him about his family being from Chicago and how he was a huge fan of both the Cubs and Bears.
“Once we got talking about football and baseball, that’s when I really got to know him,” said Shane, a father of two.
Over the course of the year, they both kept meeting each other at school. Dan even invited Shane to be a part of his fantasy baseball league.
“It was $40 to join, so I gave him the money upfront and he emailed me about the league,” Shane told Love What Matters. “I missed the draft, so he emailed me my team and even gave me some heads up about some up-and-coming Cubs players.”
However, toward the end of the year, Shane didn’t hear from Dan or anything about the league. He began to worry about what may have happened, but didn’t follow up. Dan and Debra had moved to another school district and DJ was no longer in Echo’s class.
A few years later, Dan contacted Shane via Facebook messenger, asking for his phone number.
During that time, Dan was going through a hard time with his family, especially with his wife, and just needed someone to talk to.
“I talked to him for quite a while that first time and we spoke a few times after that,” Shane told The Epoch Times.
Dan and Shane continued to stay in touch and even saw each other at the annual daddy-daughter dances that the local park district continued for children beyond elementary school.
Since Echo loves to attend them every year, Shane continued to go and would see Dan dancing happily with his girls on the dance floor.
Come the 2019 daddy-daughter dance, Shane didn’t know this would be the last time he’d see Dan.
Recalling the dance, Shane said he saw Dan having such a good time with his daughters on the dance floor.
That night, Shane, excitedly showed Dan a Chicago Bears tattoo that he got on his leg. It turns out that Dan had a Chicago Cubs tattoo on the same spot.
A month after the dance night, Shane came across a post on Dan’s Facebook page from his wife stating that Dan had passed away. Shane was deeply saddened but didn’t contact Dan’s wife to find out the circumstances that led to it.
In 2022, Shane attended the daddy-daughter dance night with Echo and was surprised to see a teen boy dancing with his sisters.
“I thought it was a bit odd,” Shane said. “I thought, well he’s way too young to have a child, so maybe he came with his uncle or something.”
But when Shane got home, he came across pictures from the daddy-daughter dance night on Facebook by Dan’s wife where she explained that DJ had taken his sisters to the dance.
“I didn’t recognize him at the dance at all,” Shane said. “If I had known that, I would have talked to him, as I never got to tell DJ what I thought.
“I would have loved to have told him that his father was a great dad and he is truly missed. I also would have loved to have told him that he was filling some big shoes to be there for his younger sisters and he is doing an excellent job as a role model.”
Reading the post made Shane tear up. He later contacted Dan’s wife and told her that he was truly shocked because he didn’t recognize DJ.
Shane, who remembers Dan as someone who was always there for his four children no matter the circumstances, implores: “No matter what happens … make sure you’re there to support your children.”