Girls get surprise Memorial Day reunion with their U.S. sailor dad
By Clare Briner Correspondent May 24, 2013 10:10PM
Updated: June 27, 2013 7:07AM
After about 20 minutes on their scavenger hunt, Maria and Erin Haines returned to the security desk for their final clue — little did they know it would lead them to their father, a U.S. sailor whom they hadn’t seen in more than a year.
Holding the last clue in his hand, 1st Class Petty Officer 1st cCass Aaron Haines walked toward the girls who instantly recognized him, squealed “Daddy!” and ran into his arms.
“Wow, they’re big,” he said with a huge smile and nervous excitement.
Louis Joliet Mall set the stage Friday night for the emotional reunion of the father and his two young daughters Maria, 8, and Erin, 7. It had been a 20-month separation.
Onlookers erupted in applause as Haines surprised his daughters in the mall’s food court. Haines’ wife, Cassie, brought the girls to the mall for a scavenger hunt, which ended with the ultimate prize—a hug from their dad, who’s been stationed aboard the USS John S. McCain in Yokosuka, Japan.
Haines said his wife wanted to surprise the girls with their dad and thought the mall would be a good meeting spot. The girls were traveling Friday from downstate Fairview, where they live with their mom, to Twin Lakes, Wis., where Haines’ wife, Cassie, lives.
“It was just going to be a little thing,” he said of the reunion. “She contacted the mall and it just exploded from there.”
The mall planned a scavenger hunt for the girls with 10 clues spread throughout the mall. They started at the mall’s security desk where Haines was able to sneak a peek at his girls without them noticing. Watching her husband embrace his daughters, Cassie wiped tears from her eyes.
She said her plan went off perfectly—even with a few TV news cameras following their scavenger hunt.
“They had no idea,” she said of the girls. “They were wondering what was up with the cameras, but I was covering it up.”
After such a long separation, the surprise reunion was nothing short of memorable for the family who regularly uses Skype to communicate. Haines will be stateside for a week before returning to Japan, where he’ll be stationed until October.
“It’s supposed to be something they’ll remember for a while,” Haines said.