When This Girl Had Nobody to Take Her to Her Daddy-Daughter Dance, This NFL Player Made a Decision That Changed Everything

Emma Smith | Thu Mar 30 2023

This article was originally published on For What It’s Earth and has been republished to The Gossip Geek with permission.

While many weddings feature the emotional and heartwarming tradition of a father-daughter dance, elementary schools and churches also put on these events throughout the year. For many young people, this daddy-daughter dance is a rite of passage that becomes a huge part of their life. And for 11-year-old Audrey Soape, it was.

Facebook / Holly Soape

Although Audrey Soape had previously loved every single daddy-daughter dance that she attended with her father, everything changed for her in 2021. She suddenly found herself without a date for the dance – and without a male figure around her, she didn’t know if she even wanted to attend any longer. So, her mom made a split decision to reach out to the family’s favorite NFL player for advice, and this set in motion a series of events they couldn’t believe.

Before 2021, Young Audrey Soape Lived a Healthy and Happy Life

To understand the true magnitude of her mom’s decision, we need to learn a little about Audrey Soape herself. Hailing from Pflugerville, Texas, young Audrey lived with her mom, dad, and younger brother in their home just outside of Austin. Before everything changed, they lived a happy and healthy life.

Image: GoFundMe

This family loved spending quality time together. They enjoyed the great outdoors, and they thought they had everything that they needed. In fact, Audrey and her father had adopted a special tradition over the years – and they made sure to carry that tradition along until one of them couldn’t any longer. Sadly, that day came earlier than Audrey expected.

Every Year, Audrey and Her Dad Would Attend Their Church’s Father-Daughter Dance

When she was just about able to walk, Audrey’s father, Ryan Soape, took her to their very first father-daughter dance at their local church. He made sure that Audrey had a beautiful dress for the occasion, he presented her with a corsage for her to wear around her wrist, and they danced all night.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Audrey loved this tradition. She loved the feeling of walking into the church hall with her father holding her hand, and she loved dancing with the man that she loved most. The event had become a part of her life. But what she didn’t realize was that, at some point in the near future, she would be with another man on the dancefloor.

The Whole Soapes Family Also Bonded Over Their Shared Love of NFL Player Anthony Harris

Before the Soapes’ lives turned upside down, they’d spend every waking moment with each other – and this mainly involved a lot of football. As Audrey’s mom Holly grew up in Minnesota and the whole family had strong ties to the US State, they supported the Minnesota Wikings NFL team. They even had a favorite player.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left) and Heavy.com (right)

Although Anthony Harris signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021, he played for the Minnesota Vikings for six seasons before that – and the Soapes family had supported him from the very beginning. They wanted the player to know just how much they meant to him, so one day they decided to let him know.

One Day, Audrey’s Mom Sent Harris a Message on Social Media to Share Their Support

Holly and her husband had followed Anthony Harris on social media for years, and they often interacted with his posts through likes and shares. However, one day Holly spontaneously decided to message him for the first time on behalf of her whole family. The last thing she expected was a reply, as she gathered that he received messages from fans every single day.

Image: Austin-American Statesman

In her message, Holly explained that her whole family were huge fans of his career and his place within the Minnesota Vikings. More than anything, they wanted to send him their prayers, their thoughts, and their support while he – like everyone else – was dealing with a worldwide pandemic. When Holly pressed ‘send’, she wondered whether Anthony would even read the message.

Anthony Harris Appreciated the Support, and, Amazingly, He Responded to Their Message

Although Holly and the kids didn’t have high expectations when it came to getting a reply from the famous football star, the family was surprised when “he responded, which was kind of incredible.” Audrey and her brother were over the moon to be interacting with their favorite football player, and they couldn’t believe that he was talking to them directly.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left) and Bleacher Report (right)

Harris told The Washington Post that “To continue those efforts really showed that they appreciated not only who I was as a player, but also what I was doing as a person. This is somebody who never met me in person; this is somebody who has just been following my career and not only paying attention to what I do on the field but also what I do off the field.” However, neither Harris nor the Soapes family realized that their story was only just beginning.

They Continued to Communicate Until the Soapes’ World Turned Upside Down

After the original interaction, the Soapes family continued to message Anthony Harris every so often. They kept up to date with his football career, they sent him messages about their own football exploits, and they just wanted to show him that he always had their full support. As a rising football star herself, Audrey saw him as her hero.

Image: Austin-American Statesman

The family knew that Harris was famous, but they could tell that he was different. Holly noted that she found “all his posts really down to earth. He just felt really personable and relatable to me… He seemed so real and so genuine, and it really made me feel like he was more of a person that we could get to know.” Sadly, everything changed for the Soapes family when a devastating blow hit them out of nowhere.

The Family Were Shaken to the Core When Audrey’s Dad Suddenly Passed Away in March 2021

Although everything seemed to be on track for Audrey, her family, and their burgeoning relationship with their favorite football star, the family was shaken to the core when Ryan Soapes passed away in March 2021. The family didn’t know what to do with themselves, and they were overcome with grief for their lost father and husband.

Image: Yahoo! Sports

Holly set up a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses and grief counseling costs for her children, writing on the page that “Ryan was an intelligent and gifted man who loved big, was a man of God and fought demons seeking help to get well for the better part of two decades… Rest easy, Ry… Fly high in paradise. I’m so sorry I could never save you.” Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of their bad news.

Just Five Weeks Later, Audrey’s Grandfather Also Passed Away

Audrey struggled to come to terms with the fact that her father was gone. The realization that the man she loved most had passed away hurt her deeply, and she soon realized that their yearly father-daughter dance tradition had come to an end. She had hoped that her grandfather would be her stand-in for the event, but then the family received more devastating news.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Just five weeks after the shocking death of her father, Audrey and her family learned that her grandfather had also passed away. The whole family was struck by the loss of these two male figures in their lives, and they just didn’t know what to do. In the end, Holly decided to reach out to someone who had already brought them together and been such a source of comfort for the family; Anthony Harris.

The Family Reached Out to Harris About Their Loss, and He Promised to Pray for Them

Audrey’s mom could see that Audrey was really struggling with the changes and the loss in her life. She confessed that “We had such a horrible year, and she had been through so much” so she wanted to see if another message from Anthony Haris would bring her some comfort. So, she messaged him with the sad news.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left) and ESPN (right)

Despite his busy schedule, Harris was quick to respond to the family that had already supported him so much. He himself had been raised by a single mother and knew of the strain it can put on a family, so he wanted to return the support they had given him. He wrote back: “I will absolutely pray for you. Please let me know if you need anything.” Although Holly didn’t realize it at the time, this was exactly what she needed to hear.

Despite Her Loss, Audrey Decided That She Still Wanted to Attend the Father-Daughter Dance

Although Holly Soapes was overcome with grief when she lost her husband, she tried to keep it together for the sake of their children, and she wanted to handle their church’s upcoming father-daughter dance with care. She knew it would be a tough time for Audrey, so she made it known that there were absolutely no expectations for Audrey to attend the event.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Audrey thought about her decision for a while – but eventually, she decided that she still wanted to attend the event with all of her friends. This left Holly in a predicament. Who would take Audrey to the father-daughter dance? She began to think about the men in their lives and began to brainstorm possibilities, but one man just kept popping into her head over and over again.

Audrey’s Mom Asked Harris to Take Her to the Dance, but Knew He Would Say No

When Holly thought about her daughter at the father-daughter dance without her father, she became emotional. As it would be the first year without her dad by her side, she wanted Audrey to feel safe, secure, and happy – and those thoughts kept leading her back to one name; Anthony Harris. Although Holly knew that the NFL player would say no, she decided that she’d give her plan a shot.

Image: Austin-American Statesman

A few days after Christmas, Holly messaged Harris on social media once again, writing “Hey, this is kind of a crazy big ask, and please feel free to say no, but there’s this dance at the end of January. Is there any way you would consider doing this?” Much to her surprise, he immediately replied, and while he didn’t say yes – he didn’t say no, either.

Harris Didn’t Make Any Promises, but Didn’t Rule Out Taking Audrey to the Dance

Holly kept her message exchange a secret from Audrey, but she couldn’t believe what she was reading. She figured that it was a “far-fetched” idea and that the NFL star would immediately shoot her down, but that isn’t what happened at all. Harris couldn’t make any promises because of his football commitments, but he didn’t rule out taking Audrey to the dance, either.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left) and Animal Humane Society (right)

Because Holly had asked in the middle of football season, Harris potentially had a lot of training and games coming his way which is why he didn’t want to make any commitments. However, he did note that “if we don’t make it to the playoffs, I would be open to that.” But even if Harris couldn’t make it in person, he still wanted to help out Audrey and the whole Soape family for the night.

Harris Decided to Make Audrey’s Dance a Night to Remember, Whether He Was There or Not

By mid-January, the Eagles had been kicked out of the playoffs and the football season had ended for Harris – which meant that he had more of an idea of whether he would be able to attend Audrey’s father-daughter dance or not. More than anything though, Harris knew that he wanted to help make the night extraordinary, whether he was there or not.

Image: NJ.com

The football player noted that he was moved by Holly’s request and saw it as “a mother doing what she can to provide for her family.” And while he still couldn’t make any concrete promises, he had some ideas up his sleeve to make Audrey’s sad situation even better. It all started with a dress…

For Starters, Harris Bought Audrey a Brand New Dress for the Dance

As a charitable football star through and through, Anthony Harris decided to partner with his namesake charity to make Audrey’s daddy-daughter dance the best night of her life. For starters, he insisted on buying her a brand new dress and some new shoes for the event.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

The football player noted that “deaths could come with some financial burdens as well. I thought that this would take another load off of what the family was going through.” He didn’t want Holly to have to spend any of her own hard-earned money for the night, which is why he decided that a dress just wasn’t enough.

He Also Paid for Her to Get Her Hair and Makeup Professionally Done

Harris had grown close to the family over the years and knew how hard the passing of Audrey’s father and grandfather had hit them all. So, in Holly’s words, “He spared no expenses whatsoever, and he just wanted to make sure that she felt special and cared about.” He did this by booking professional hair and makeup artists for the young girl.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left and right)

The football star did this because “I wanted to try and make it a very unique experience. I wanted her to feel like a princess.” Audrey loved and appreciated the whole experience, stating that “It felt so cool, so I’ve gone to get my hair cut but never to get my hair straightened and my makeup done and all that stuff. It felt like special treatment.” However, the surprises still weren’t over.

The Football Star Also Surprised Her on the Night as Her Date for the Event

Up until this point, Holly still didn’t know whether Harris would be able to make it to the daddy-daughter dance. While she had told her daughter that the dress and the hair and makeup were from the football star, Audrey had no idea that there was also a potential plan in motion for him to take her as his date.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

However, on January 28, 2022, both Holly and Audrey realized that Harris had made his decision. He turned up their doorstep and picked Audrey up for the dance – and even put a corsage on her wrist, ready to escort her to the dance. Audrey couldn’t believe it, confessing that “I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I was nervous and excited to meet him.” Of course, the night was only just beginning.

Harris Even Took the Time to Talk to Audrey’s Brother, a Huge Football Fan

Holly Soape already knew from their message exchanges that Anthony Harris was a down-to-earth celebrity who cared about his fans. But when he turned up on their doorstep she realized that he was much more humble than she originally thought. He was genuinely excited to meet them in person and wanted to take away the stress and the sadness of Audrey’s daddy-daughter dance.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soapes

In fact, Harris’ selfless nature was apparent when he also took time out of his night to talk to Audrey’s younger brother, who was a huge football fan. The football star posed for pictures with all of the family and even threw a ball around with him. They hadn’t even made it to the church hall yet, but Audrey could tell that she was going to have a good night. She was nervous though…

Audrey Was Nervous to Meet Her Hero, but Harris Was Equally as Nervous

While Audrey was excited to head to the daddy-daughter dance with Anthony Harris, she was also a little apprehensive. What would they talk about? Would they get along? Would he even want to talk to her? And it seems as though the feelings were mutual. Harris himself confessed that “I think I might have been a little more nervous than she was.”

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

So, to begin with, Harris put his efforts into making Audrey feel comfortable around him. He noted that “I tried to initially give her some distance and let her be a kid and let her enjoy the time with her friends without her feeling like someone is over her shoulder, while not being too far away if some of her friends started dancing with their fathers… so she could have someone there to support her.”

After a While, Audrey Soon Realized That Anthony Was Just a Normal Person

Anthony’s efforts and his decision to give Audrey space eventually worked in both of their favors. After a while, they started getting more comfortable with each other and they started chatting about anything and everything. Before too long, Audrey realized that – while Anthony was a famous NFL player – he was still just a normal person.

Images: Facebook /Holly Soape (left and right)

Audrey said that “It didn’t feel like I was with someone that was in the NFL. It felt like I was with a normal person that was my friend. We talked a lot about football and stuff at the beginning. And then we kind of just eased up the conversation and talked a little bit about my dad.” Then, the dancing started.

Audrey Loved Dancing With the Football Star, and Enjoyed Every Second of the Night

As the night progressed, Audrey became more and more comfortable with Harris, and they eventually made their way to the dance floor. They danced along to Disney tunes and took selfies on their phones, and they even took part in the scavenger hunt the church put on for the event.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Audrey stated that dancing with her football star hero was the highlight of her whole night: “In the moment, I was just thinking about Anthony and the dance. He was the reason that actually inspired me to play football and I just love watching him play.” Thankfully, Holly was also there to witness her daughter’s magical night for herself.

Audrey’s Mom Chaperoned the Event, so She Also Got to Spend Time With Harris

Although Holly didn’t originally know if Anthony Harris would be able to attend the daddy-daughter dance or not, she still decided to volunteer as a chaperone for the event. She knew that Audrey might struggle without her father on the night, so she wanted to be there for support. This meant that she also got to spend time with the football star she had loved for years.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Holly confessed that “He had such a sense about him where if he could tell she [Audrey] was feeling nervous or uncomfortable, he would just break the ice. He really just engaged with her the entire night and made sure she never felt alone… When you see someone show up for your kid to make them feel special, to make them feel unique, it was just so unbelievable touching for me.”

Anthony Was Determined to Be a Support System for Audrey on the Night

Holly could see that Anthony was really making an effort during the dance, and what struck her the most was the fact that he didn’t have to. He was a relative stranger who had his own life to live, and he was a celebrity. But he was determined to be a support system for Audrey on the night – so that’s exactly what he did.

Images: Facebook / Holly Soape (left and right)

Harris said that “I just wanted to try and help her cope through that experience without her father being there. I had people in my life, sometimes complete strangers, that were very supportive of me, so I wanted to do that for her.” He also hopes that he taught Audrey a lesson that night, that “you can one day potentially be a support system to someone else. You don’t have to know somebody to help them.”

He Knows That He’s in a Privileged Position, so He Wanted to Spread Some Joy

More than anything, Anthony wanted to show that privilege doesn’t always equate to power and selfishness. He stated that “I’m just thankful for the opportunity I have to play football and have an impact on people’s lives and that was ultimately what I was trying to do, to be there for [Audrey].” Overall, everyone agreed that the night was a success.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Audrey’s mom Holly knows that “The whole night, honestly from start to finish could not have gone better. And that was really remarkable to me, for [Harris] to show that vulnerability, the human side that we all really need from one another.” More than anything, Harris made the daddy-daughter dance manageable for a daughter who had sadly lost her daddy.

Audrey Will Remember the Night of the Dance for the Rest of Her Life

The daddy-daughter dance could have been an extremely heartbreaking evening for Audrey Soape. And while she was sad that her father couldn’t attend with her – as he had done for many years – she soon realized that she was surrounded by many other people who were all there for her.

Image: Facebook / Holly Soape

Plus, she got to spend the evening with her favorite football player of all time – which was an experience she will never forget. The night was also special for Anthony Harris, who not only enjoyed the night on a personal level but also felt as though he was putting good back into the universe. He was over the moon that he could make “Audrey’s smile come back.”

Audrey’s Story Went Viral, and She Even Appeared on Television

Although Audrey’s daddy-daughter dance experience was deeply emotional and personal, she and her family wanted to share the experience on social media. Before too long, their story had been picked up nationally and internationally, and the Soape family was being asked to take part in interviews.

Image: Instagram / Holly Soape

When this photo was taken, Audrey was gearing herself to appear on Live! With Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest. While the youngster was super nervous about speaking on television, she knew that Anthony would also be on the other side of the laptop screen. This inspired her to talk about their story, just as he inspired her to take another leap…

Her Experience With Anthony Has Taught Her To Take Her Football Goals Seriously

Although there’s doubt about the fact that Audrey grew up surrounded by football and that she developed a huge love for it over the years, her love of playing football amped up a notch after her incredible night with Anthony. The professional footballer had ignited a fire within her, and now Audrey is taking her goals even more seriously.

Images: Instagram / Holly Soape

In fact, Audrey is now a keen NFL flag football player. This sport is a variant of the game we watch on television, and is often a lot safer for youngsters. That’s because this variant doesn’t involve any tackles to the ground, but instead requires the players to remove the flag from their opposition. Audrey now plays for her local team, and she has one person in her mind while she plays. Her dad.

While Audrey Still Misses Her Father, She Uses His Spirit as Inspiration To Succeed

Of course, Audrey wishes that her father were here to watch her on the football field. She misses her dad every single day, but she uses his spirit and her memories of him to inspire her to succeed in everything she does. And this is something that her mom Holly can see every time she looks at her daughter.

Images: Instagram / Holly Soape

On Instagram, Holly wrote: “Random Audrey appreciation post. This girl of mine is amazing and inspiring. So strong and fierce, but gentle and kind at the same time. To lose as much as she has, and to have had a childhood that she did.. To come out the other side still filled with love and resilience. She blows me away daily. My girl who loves Jesus, football and family as much as I do.” And while Audrey had her special night with Anthony, her surprises didn’t end there.

After the Dance, Audrey Also Got the Chance To Tour the Vikings’ Stadium

For Audrey, attending the daddy-daughter dance with Anthony Harris was a dream come true. He had been the family’s idol for years, and they had been his biggest supporters from day one. After all, they were huge Viking fans. That’s why Audrey and her brother couldn’t believe it when they were given the chance to have a private tour of the Vikings’ stadium.

Image: Instagram / Holly Soape

Audrey’s mom wrote on Instagram that “Today we made some dreams come true. We got to tour the home of the Vikings, US Bank Stadium, and do ALL THE THINGS.” Touring the stadium was something the family had always wanted to do, and while they wished that their father was there to share the experience with them, they filled their day up with exciting activities that took their minds off it.

The Family Even Got To Throw Balls and Score Touchdowns in the End Zone

During their fun-filled day, Audrey and her family were given the chance to do things that some football fans can only dream of. Holly noted that “We got a private viewing of the locker room, suites, press room, and finished it off by getting to run out of the tunnel onto the field to play catch, throw touchdowns and griddy all over the end zone.”

Images: Instagram / Holly Soape

The overall experience was one that Audrey knew wouldn’t have happened if her mom hadn’t reached out to Anthony, and she couldn’t believe how lucky she was. While Anthony provided her one of the best nights of her life, her mom made it all happen. And it seems as though Holly is also thankful to Anthony. She even had something to say on his birthday.

Audrey’s Mom Now Considers Anthony To Be a Lifelong Family Friend

Since the day they started supporting Anthony Harris and his football career, the Soape family felt as though they were close to the professional football star. But after he made Audrey’s dreams come true and met them all in person, he proved that he was so much more than just an acquaintance. Holly now considers him to be a lifelong family friend.

Image: Instagram / Holly Soape

On his birthday, Holly wrote “Happy birthday Ant! I’m so incredibly proud to call you my friend. I always say that a tiny ripple can turn into a giant wave. This man right here has created waves, changing thousands of lives in his wake. He’s spent his career not trying to stack his wealth or fame, but he’s spent it trying to help as many people as he can and leaving an amazing legacy that will touch lives for many years to come. I’m so grateful for you, and we love you so much.” And Holly’s words couldn’t be more true.

The Football Player Has Changed the Lives of Thousands of Children Over the Years

Although Anthony Harris could rest on his millions and ignore everyone else in the world, he chooses to use his platform for good. His foundation has helped thousands of people’s lives over the years, and he’s willing to spend all of his money on others if that makes them happy. He proved this when he gifted 30 children brand-new laptops.

Image: Instagram / Anthony Harris Foundation

In an Instagram post, the football star wrote, “Putting inspiration, passion, and love into the hearts of others… that’s what it’s all about. Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to gift 30 more children with laptops. Thank you @bestbuy and @francissuarez for your continued support and partnership. Thank you to all of those involved and who embraced this giveback. Thank you to my friends and teammates for your time and support, always.” That’s not all, though.

He’s Also Worked Closely With Charities Focused on Domestic Violence Survivors

Amazingly, Anthony doesn’t just help children. While he first and foremost wants to inspire the next generation to achieve all of their dreams, he also has a strong connection to those who have struggled with domestic violence in the past. That’s why he chooses to also work closely with charities and foundations that aim to help those who have suffered.

Images: Instagram / Anthony Harris Foundation

During Domestic Awareness Month in October, Anthony persuaded a whole host of his teammates to give up their time and money to write letters and wrap up gifts for survivors of domestic violence. He hoped that this would “spread awareness by sharing tools and resources to prevent domestic abuse and support those who have experienced it.” But why does he choose to be so generous?

Fans Believe It’s Refreshing To See a Football Player Give Back So Much

One of the reasons why Anthony Harris is such a famous and popular football player is that he gives back so much. In fans’ eyes, it’s refreshing to see someone with so much power and money choose to help others before focusing on themselves. And it seems as though there’s a reason behind Anthony’s generosity.

Image: Instagram / Anthony Harris Foundation

On his Instagram page, he wrote that “My number one goal through this is, is to make sure kids have the same resources and opportunity that I did to succeed.” Yes, if he can help just one person reach their goals and achieve their dreams then he’ll be happy. But Anthony is on a mission to help more than that. And it seems as though this karma has come back around.

Anthony Is Full of Good Karma, and Now He’s Engaged to the Love of His Life

They say good things happen to those who do good, which certainly seems to be the case for Anthony Harris. After making Audrey’s dreams come true and after helping so many children and adults over the course of his career, Anthony seems to be relishing good karma. Not only is his professional career thriving, but so is his personal life.

Image: Instagram / Anthony Harris Foundation

Just before the pandemic, Anthony started dating primary school teacher Paige Bieker. While the lockdown sped up their relationship, it seems that was everything Anthony needed. In 2022, he got down on one knee and proposed – and she said yes! We wonder if Audrey and her family will be invited to the wedding.