School resource officer Nicol “Nick” Harvey couldn’t help but feel a little sad when he noticed posters advertising the father-daughter dance.
Harvey, who works at Central Elementary School in Van Buren, Arkansas, had always looked forward to the annual event. But with his three daughters now grown, he had no one to take.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get to experience it again,” Harvey, 43, told TODAY Parents.
But that all changed when Van Buren police chief Jamie Hammond sent an email to his school resource officers suggesting they step in for children without father figures.
Harvey immediately shared Hammond’s idea with a guidance counselor, and she came back with a name: Avey Cox.
The second grader’s dad, Corey Cox, died on Jan. 6.
“They were very close,” Cox’s mom, Angelia Bernard, told TODAY Parents. "Avey wanted to go to the dance but didn't have anyone to take her."
After getting the go-ahead from Cox, 8, and Bernard, Harvey got busy planning.
“I bought a new tie and handkerchief to match Avey’s dress and I ordered a corsage,” Harvey revealed. “Every time I saw her at school, she’d remind me of how many days it was until the dance.”
As a special surprise, Harvey and five other dads chipped in and rented a Hummer limousine for the dance that was held on Feb. 10. They also treated the kids to a pizza dinner.
“It was nice to watch Avey just taking it all in,” Harvey revealed, noting that she had never ridden in a limo before.
For Harvey, the best part of the evening was a special moment he and Cox shared at an ice cream shop after the dance.
“Another little girl that was with our party asked, ‘Is this your dad?’ and Avey said, ‘No, this is our school resource officer,’” Harvey recalled. “I looked at Avey, and then I said, ‘Well, tonight I’m her dad.’”
Cox responded by placing her head on Harvey’s arm.
“I know she’s not my kid, but for a couple of hours it felt like she really was. I even get to twirl her," Harvey explained. “We’ve really become best friends through all this.”
Bernard said her little girl hasn’t stopped smiling since the dance.
“It was such a bright spot in the hard month we've had," Bernard gushed. “Avey keeps saying it was the best night ever.”