During a magical night when large men pandered to little ladies, the Temptations’ 1965 classic “My Girl” captured the joy and pride hundreds of fathers and other male role models felt during the 12th annual Princess Ball.

Sharply attired in formal wear Jan. 13 at Foundation for Youth, with many wearing New Year’s Eve party crowns, hundreds of men transformed themselves into Prince Charming-type figures for the night. As snow plows still were cleaning up the previous day’s winter storm, some preschool princesses stomped to the music in winter galoshes for this year’s Royal Ball, which drew 351 young ladies ranging in age from 2 to 12.

They arrived in Cinderella-type gowns, prom or confirmation-style dresses on a night intended to remind them that they are special.

As each child was escorted down a red carpet upon arrival, girls expressed delight when a public address announcer proclaimed them a princess to what seemed the entire world.

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“This is about instilling self-esteem and confidence,” said Laura Moses, Foundation for Youth’s health and fitness director. “It’s about the ability to step outside one’s comfort zone with someone she knows will protect her.”

As a terminally-ill father unabashedly cut loose with his daughters, a different and deeper set of emotions were stirred among informed adult onlookers.

Several fathers discretely wiped an eye before looking down at their own special girl and began counting their own blessings.

Date night with Dad

While some men might feel awkward at such an event, Parkside Elementary student Hailey Spurgeon said her father is always comfortable spending time with her.

“I know he loves me, because he tells me,” the 8-year-old Hailey said. “He gives me other signs. He protects me and makes me feel safe.”

Jarrod Spurgeon said young girls need a male role model to help them make right decisions in their lives.

At 9, Ruthie West seems to fully comprehend that the love she shares with her father, Nate West, is a two-way street.

“Every night when he comes home, my brother Theo and I run and give him hugs,” the Rockcreek Elementary fourth grader said.

Ruthie also shows her love by being one of Nate West’s best helpers when he coordinates the annual Toys For Tots campaign every holiday season, the father said.

So what does Ruthie get in return?

“He always smiles at me, runs to get me Band-aids when I hurt myself — and he’s a really good dancer,” Ruthie said.

Since the Princess Ball is designed to emphasize family and togetherness, it opens the door to a night when father and daughter can share special time together, Nate West said.

And while he enjoyed the ball with Ruthie, West’s wife, Phoebe, was sharing a similar experience with 5-year-old Theo at Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant, he said.

According to Audio Magic! entertainment company owner Alan Trisler, who has provided the music each year of the event since its inception, the three most popular moments for girls attending the Princess Ball are:

Doing an Oscars-style red carpet walk that concludes with roped-off paparazzi mothers taking photos.

Dancing with the man in her life as thousands of soap bubbles descend on them.

Hearing the men express their love and devotion for their girls during a competitive game played late in the evening.

Princess or queen?

No matter what the announcer may have proclaimed, Olivia Linzy was making her own casting decisions.

“I’m the Queen and you’re the prince,” 4-year-old Olivia instructed her father.

Lesser dads might have been a little hurt, but Durrell Linzy smiled and nodded before continuing to happily indulge his preschool daughter’s wishes as she pulled him from one thing to the next.

If it seems Olivia has Daddy wrapped around her finger, he wouldn’t have it any other way, the father said.

After growing up in a home where he was significantly outnumbered by members of the opposite sex, Durrell Linzy said he never perceives anything threatening from female authority.

But what makes him cow-tow to little Olivia so much is when he sees his own mother’s personality so evidently alive in his young daughter.

“My mom and I were so close that I want us two to be just as close,” Durrell Linzy said as he gave his daughter one of several hugs.

While certainly independent and strong-willed, Olivia didn’t hesitate to credit her father for teaching her those traits.

“I’m not afraid of the dark now,” the 4-year-old said. “My daddy taught me not to be scared of anything.”

As Olivia continues to grow and mature, it is her father’s intention to continue helping his daughter maintain courage in other areas such as sports and academics, Durrell Linzy said.

That type of support and encouragement from a father is exactly what helps young girls gain the strength and empowerment to accept challenges and conquer obstacles well into their college years, according to the Journal of North American Psychology.

Funds raised by the Princess Ball provide participation scholarships for Girls on the Run of Bartholomew County, part of a nationally acclaimed running program for girls in grades 3 to 6.

Three reasons fathers are important to daughters

  1. Young girls who have a warm, close relationship with their dads are better able to handle everyday stressors, are less prone to depression and anxiety, and are better able to talk about their feelings. Source: Journal of Family Psychology, February 2012.
  2. Girls with involved fathers are far less likely to go hungry, to live in poverty, and to have better physical health. Source: 2014 study results from Rutgers University.
  3. Teenage girls who report having caring, involved fathers had higher self-esteem and greater overall life satisfaction than peers who had more tumultuous relationships. Source: Journal of North American Psychology, March 2012.
Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.