A welcome surprisePublished 12:15pm Thursday, May 23, 2013
Dadeville native returns from tour in Afghanistan, surprises children
Cooper and Levi Childers knew their daddy would be home from serving in Afghanistan soon.
They didn’t know he was going to surprise them at Dadeville Elementary School’s awards ceremony Tuesday.
“I was pretty surprised,” Cooper said. “I didn’t really expect it at all.”
Cooper, 10, and Levi, 6, were told they were going to make a video for their father, Sgt. First Class Shawn Childers, during the awards ceremony, which provided a cover-up reason for Levi, Cooper and their sister Lillie, 3, to wear “He’s not just my Daddy. He’s my hero” T-shirts.
The children were told to face the video camera and say what they would want to tell their dad. In the meantime, Shawn walked up behind them.
“If you’ll turn around, you can tell him right now,” said DES Principal Chad McKelvey.
Everyone in the DES gymnatorium cheered as Shawn hugged his children.
“Jill wanted to make sure that these guys had a great surprise,” Shawn said. “The reaction on their faces was like – they didn’t even know how to react.”
Shawn left in August 2012.
It was Lyssa Riggins’ idea to coordinate the surprise homecoming. She taught Shawn in kindergarten, and this year she had his youngest son, Levi.
“When I started making all the connections and they told me his daddy was in Afghanistan, Levi just took a special place in my heart,” Riggins said. “I wanted it to be a good year for him.”
When she found out Shawn would be home toward the end of May, she and mom Jill Childers began to plan the surprise.
“The school has been so good to us,” Jill said. “We wanted them to be a part of it, and we wanted it to be big for our kids because they deserve it.”
Levi called the surprise “a good trick.” Cooper said the best part of having Shawn home would be spending the summer together and “him watching my baseball games.”
“I couldn’t have asked for it to be any better,” Riggins said. “I wanted it to be special for Levi and Cooper, because it’s been a hard year for both of them.”