Holly Soape’s heart ached for her 11-year-old daughter, Audrey. Audrey was was facing an upcoming father-daughter dance without her dad, who had died in a tragic accident. Wanting to ease her little girl’s sadness, Holly asked the family’s favorite athlete, Anthony Harris of the Philadelphia Eagles, to escort Audrey — and he said yes!
Asking Anthony Harris a Big Question
“Can you just take me?” 11-year-old Audrey Soape asked her mother, Holly. Seeing the longing in her daughter’s eyes, the Pflugerville, Texas, mom’s heart broke.
Their church’s father-daughter dance was approaching. But sadly, Audrey’s dad had died the previous year in a tragic accident. And she’d lost her grandfather, who would have been honored to step in, just five weeks later.
While Holly would happily escort her daughter, she worried that, once there, Audrey would feel self-conscious. But who else could take her? Holly wondered.
And then, a long-shot idea came to mind: NFL player Anthony Harris of the Philadelphia Eagles, the whole family’s favorite athlete.
Holly, a Minnesota native, had been following Anthony’s career since he first played professionally for her home state’s Vikings in 2015. Holly not only respected him as a great athlete, she shared his deep Christian faith. She would periodically send Scriptures and uplifting messages to him on social media. He even responded now and then.
Still, replying to a message was a far cry from flying across the country to take a stranger’s daughter to a dance. But Audrey’s happiness was on the line.
So last December, Holly sent Anthony a message, explaining Audrey’s heartbreaking situation, and asked, “Will you consider coming out to Texas to take my daughter to the dance in January?”
A Dream Come True
Like most athletes, Anthony receives many requests from fans, for things like autographs and video greetings. But he had never received an ask this big. As he read Holly’s message, his heart stirred.
Anthony isn’t a father, but he is an uncle. The thought of his niece or nephew suffering Audrey’s heartache moved him.
What an opportunity to impact a child’s life, he thought. He immediately replied, “If we don’t make it to the playoffs, I would be open to that.”
Oh gosh! Holly gasped upon reading the message. He really might do this.
As it turned out, the timing worked out perfectly.
Audrey’s jaw dropped when Holly told her Anthony would be her escort. She shared her mom’s love of football, and has even played flag football for the last five years. “I can’t believe it!” Audrey gushed, and made her mom show her his message.
“He’s really coming!” she bubbled, reading his reply.
A Fairy-Tale Evening
Wanting Audrey’s night to be truly special, Anthony sent money for a dress and to have Audrey’s hair and makeup done. Then, on the day of the dance, he flew to Austin and drove to the Soapes’ house, greeting them all with a big hug.
It’s really him! This is happening! Audrey thought.
Anthony slipped a corsage on Audrey’s wrist and posed for photos with the family — a huge thrill for Audrey’s 8-year-old brother, Jackson — before they headed off to the big dance.
While not all the young girls recognized him, the fathers did and swarmed around the athlete. Anthony was kind, but kept his attention focused on Audrey.
They had a delightful evening, dancing, talking and laughing together.
Anthony was even game for a scavenger hunt. And he gave Audrey some football tips. She had moments of sadness remembering her father, and wishing he could have been there with them, but Anthony still made the night an incredible joy.
“It was definitely like a fairy tale,” she says. “I felt super special, and it was just amazing. I will never forget it.”
Anthony — who runs The Anthony Harris Foundation, which serves at-risk youth — says it was an honor to be able to be there for Audrey.
“To step in for a lost loved one, particularly for that kind of event, I knew it was very meaningful not only to the young lady but to her mom as well,” Anthony says.
As for Holly, months later, she is still in awe of Anthony. “The fact that he did this for my little girl is just incredible,” she says. “Audrey had the biggest smile on her face all night. To see that was the greatest gift.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.