When David Williams’ daughter, Tatum, outgrew her school’s father-daughter dance, David wanted to find a way to continue the special evening they both enjoyed.
Fortunately, some friends of his started a community father-daughter dance about four hours away that he and his daughter attended. They had a great time, and David got an idea.
“I thought to myself, ‘You know, I would like to do this back home.’”
Mentored by a friend, David developed a vision for his own father-daughter dance in Buford, Georgia.
The first dance, in 2009, had 188 attendees. The annual event now draws up to 850 and has widespread community support. Businesses donate time, money, products and services. High school students volunteer at the event. The local Kiwanis Club has raised more than $50,000 in college scholarships in connection to the dance.
For making a difference in the lives of dads and daughters, David was honored with the 2017 Amway Hero Award for Generosity, one of four Amway Hero Awards given each year to honor Amway Independent Business Owners who build stronger communities and make positive impacts in the lives of others.
‘It’s because of David’
“He is the most tireless person I have ever met,” said Wanda Brown, vice president of Peoples Bank & Trust and a scholarship sponsor.
Dina Farmer recalls meeting with David in her restaurant to talk about the first dance. “You would not think, from sitting there that day writing notes on napkins, that it could possibly grow to this,” said Dina, who donates food and catering for the event. “Sometimes you have to sit and wonder how it happened, but it’s because of David.”
“If David can help somebody, he will,” said Scott Smith, a Kiwanis member and friend who took part in that first meeting.
David’s wife, Brenda, said that when the power goes out, he’s the first to check on their elderly neighbors. When a local family was struggling because the father was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatments, David paid their rent for two months.
The father-daughter dance is another example of David’s community spirit. After that first meeting with Scott and Dina, he secured a space, recruited volunteers, found sponsorships and arranged for long-stemmed red roses for the girls. He printed postcards and posters, then spent several hours every day dropping them off at schools.
Kindness amid adversity
What made this even more remarkable were the challenges David and his family faced at the time. After 17 years at a well-paying job, his position was eliminated and he had to start over. “Our whole world was turned upside down,” David said.
While getting a real estate business off the ground, he worked mornings as a bellhop at a hotel and later worked at a fast-food restaurant. But his generous spirit never wavered.
A co-worker who was a single mom, needed a root canal but didn’t have the money. David paid for her dental work. And his kindness to others was returned. When the family’s finances became lean, boxes of groceries would appear by the garage door, and they would find envelopes of cash or gift cards in the mailbox.
“You can say that this whole dance was born out of that adversity,” David said. “Now when I see people at the dance and how it has grown, I think that God has blessed us, and it’s just amazing.”
More than just a dance
The event involves the entire Williams family: Brenda, along with David’s sister, Joan, and son, Nathan. And Tatum, now a college student, says: “I still love going every year.”
Adam Southerland’s daughter was 4 months old when he took her to the first dance. She has a little sister now, and they have attended every year since. “I cherish these memories and hope to keep bringing them both for years to come,” he said.
David remembers watching a dad in a wheelchair, twirling the chair to dance with his 9-year-old daughter. “I said, ‘Tatum, if I had not lost my job and joined Kiwanis, this would have never happened. Look at that. Isn’t that wonderful?’”
At the end of each dance, David and Tatum stand at the door saying goodbye to the dads, some with tears in their eyes.
“In a world where kids have a phone in front of their faces all day and never have time for conversation, the dads tell me, ‘You gave us tonight together, so thank you, and we will be back,’” David said. “I hear that year after year, over and over.”