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Dear Daddy in Seat 16C: Heartfelt letter to man helping girl with autism a gift

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A “Dear Daddy in Seat 16C” letter has gone viral this week, as word of a goodhearted man helping a young girl with autism aboard a plane ride inspired the child’s mother to write him the heartfelt letter via an online blog post. Calling him a true gift, the mother highlighted how considerate and patient he was. After the kind businessman played with the woman’s energetic child for over two-and-a-half hours and made a true connection with the young girl, Shannell Mouland decided to share his goodness with the world. Yahoo! Shine News tells this warm story this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.

The “Dear Daddy in Seat 16C” note first came about on the ride home from Disney World with Shannell Mouland and her family flying back to Philadelphia. Mouland’s husband and their three-year-old daughter, Kate (who has autism), were sitting in two nearby seats. Mouland was understandably anxious — her daughter’s mood could be rather temperamental at times, with her behavior switching from loving to frenzied in a moment, so having a seatmate that was both compassionate and tolerant was vital.

The mother had no reason to be worried, however, as the businessman that soon sat down turned out to be a loving father himself, and shared that kindness with the young Kate Mouland beside him.

She penned an open letter with the sweet title, “Dear Daddy in Seat 16C,” and decided to upload it online this Thursday to her popular blog, “Go Team Kate.” It turned out to be quite a gift in itself. Reception was positive and immediate, and soon the touching post went absolutely viral.

"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 … 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."

Mouland went on to write in the heartfelt letter how the man truly went out of his way to accommodate their autistic girl’s needs, and what a difference he made in the young girl’s life (and her own) in just a short plane ride.

"Any time we go out in public, we have to plan for anything because Kate has sensory issues and when she's overwhelmed, her behavior may be unpredictable," Mouland revealed. "Most people warm up to Kate, but interacting with her can be off-putting for those that don't understand autism. But you were different. You made a difference."

The letter to “daddy” in the airplane seat was in fact addressed to a Mr. Eric Kunkel, a married father and businessman hailing from New Jersey. He enjoyed a friendly conversation with Kate about her dogs, her fun time in Disney world, and even allowed Kate to play games on his iPad.

"I travel a lot for work, and Kate was, by far, the most well-behaved kid I've sat next to," Kunkel added in his own statement after hearing of the “Dear Daddy in Seat 16C” posting. "Shanell is also an incredible parent — she didn't apologize for Kate and she shouldn't have — but she was very attentive to her."

Even when 3-year-old Kate began to get upset towards the end of the flight when she had to remove her seatbelt, Kunkel helped avert her attention by playing with her toys.

"Thank you for letting us go ahead of you," wrote Mouland. "She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed. So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl."

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