Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C – A Mother’s Touching Thank You To Kind Stranger On Airplane

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Anyone who has ever travelled with kids will know that at times it can be an extremely difficult task.  

The Mouland family had visited Disney World, Florida, and while travelling home on a flight from Orlando to Philadelphia, the parents were seated separately.

Mum Shanell sat with 3-year-old daughter, Kate. who has autism, while her husband sat with their 5-year-old daughter, Grace.

After Kate became obsessed with the window shade, Shanell decided she would sit her daughter in the middle, knowing that a stranger would have to share the row with them.

Shanell became extremely anxious, as depending on her mood, Kate’s behaviour can range from affectionate to hysterical.


Mum Shanell with daughter Kate.

A man sat down beside Kate and within moments was referred to as, “Daddy,” by the 3-year-old.

Instead of correcting her, the stranger interacted with the toddler, engaging in conversation to keep the little girl entertained.


His gracious manner and kindness overwhelmed Shanell and the Mum-of-two felt compelled to write a post on her blog thanking Kate’s on flight “Daddy”.

Posted on the 9th of January, titled Dear ‘Daddy in Seat 16C Flight 1850 from Philly, the piece has received 66,000 likes on Facebook and was an instant viral hit online.

The open letter received a massive response and within hours of posting the touching note of gratitude, “Daddy” had been located.

Kate’s new friend was businessman and father-of-one, Eric Kunkel.

In an interview with Yahoo Shine Kunkel said: ”I travel a lot for work, and Kate was, by far, the most well-behaved kid I’ve sat next to.

“Shanelle is also an incredible parent, she didn’t apologise for Kate and she shouldn’t have, but she was very attentive to her.”

The post starts out:

Dear “Daddy,”

I don’t know your name, but Kate called you “daddy” for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn’t even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own “daddy,” but instead making a judgment regarding your level of “safety” for her. If she calls you “daddy” then you better believe she thinks you are alright.

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

Read the full story here.

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