Busy planning their wedding, when Michaela and Nora Cook-Yotts found out their good friend’s dad was facing cancer for the fourth time, with a devastatingly bleak prognosis, they wanted to do something meaningful for the family during the celebration.
Realising that Peter Otto, a close family friend since daughter Jessica first met Michaela back in primary school, might never get the chance to dance with his daughters at their own weddings, the couple handed over the dance floor on their big day.
And the beautiful gesture, caught on camera by their wedding photographer, brought the room to tears.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk, Michaela says the idea actually came from her now-wife, Nora, who has also grown close to Peter.
“When she met Mr Otto she fell in love with him because that’s the kind of guy he is,” she explains. “When Nora met him she was working a crappy job and he helped her get a job she loves. So when she heard that he was diagnosed with cancer for a fourth time she felt like she needed to give something back.
“I loved the idea and when we approached Jessica with the idea she was excited to have the opportunity.”
They kept Peter in the dark about their plans and waited until after Nora and Michaela had had their own father-daughter dances.
And Michaela says that as Peter, Jessica and Megan took to the floor together, dancing to a cover of Every Breath You Take, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“The dance was incredibly overwhelming and emotional. We had a relatively small wedding so most of the people there knew Pete and were aware of his diagnosis,” she tells stylist.co.uk. “Everyone in the room was tearing up, even those people who didn't know him or the situation. It was such an amazing moment that we are so happy to have given them.”
Denyse Dias of Belle Rey Photography, who photographed the February wedding, said that although she knew of the plan beforehand, it was still an overwhelmingly beautiful moment to witness.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk, she admits: “I thought I was prepared. I was not!
“After getting to know Jessica during the day and realising how sweet and wonderful she is, along with how sweet and wonderful Michaela and Nora are, I was overwhelmed when the dance happened.
“I did my best to get as many good shots as I could until I couldn't see through my tears anymore. Then I just clicked away. Everyone in the room was either crying or very emotional. It was an amazing experience.
“I’m glad the story is spreading because I think it will help Jessica raise a lot of money for the bike ride she’s doing to support cancer research.”
Peter was first diagnosed in 2001 with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; since then, he’s battled central nervous system lymphoma and a brain tumour, before suffering a relapse in April 2016.
Jessica and her dad have fundraised for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – the treatment and research centre in Massachusetts where Peter is being treated – over the years, twice by riding in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) bike-a-thon going through 46 towns in two days.
While Peter is too ill to participate this year, Jessica is determined to ride in his name on 5 Aug, and Michaela and Nora hope the interest in their touching story will help her raise money.
Michaela tells us: “As far as the attention this story is getting, I think it’s incredible but it’s also a little strange because we didn't do it for attention. We did it because it was the right thing to do.
“What I want to come out of this story is not what a great gift this was, but people to know about Jessica’s PMC ride and to donate. A dance is just a moment in time. Giving money to cancer research can make a real difference in someone’s life.
“Every day Nora and I wish we could take Pete’s cancer away. The next best thing is donating to the PMC to possibly change the course of history for someone else.”
Jessica, who says that her dad only has a month or two to live, told ABC News that she was blown away by the gesture.
“Deep down, I knew it [a father-daughter dance] wasn’t in the cards for us,” she said. “It was everything to me, I don’t think they will ever fully know [what] it meant to me.”