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Imperfect Fathers


If watching this YouTube video doesn’t touch your heart nothing will. I ignored the tear jerker alert posted below the video, much to my discomfort. By the end of the video I was bawling like a baby. With six million views and climbing it seems I am not alone. There is something extraordinarily inspirational about a truck driving dad who obviously can’t dance, endeavouring to dance with his beautiful 12 year old disabled daughter who is in a wheelchair. It gives us imperfect fathers some hope.

The PEOPLE.Com article called ‘Meet the Dancing Dad and Daughter’ behind this inspirational YouTube clip tells the story well:

“Mike Carey, a truck driver from Dallas, Georgia, acts as the arms and legs of his 12-year-old daughter, McKenzie, a beauty-pageant queen in a wheelchair who lives with a rare disorder and, like any preteen girl, has a love of dancing.

Their first YouTube video, posted on June 17 2014, showed Carey waltzing with and dipping his beaming daughter across a stage to Miley Cyrus’s aptly themed “The Climb.” It is approaching nearly 6 million views.

McKenzie suffers from mitochondrial disease, which has dramatically impaired her speech and movement.

“The way I look at it, my daughter is 12 years old – most of these kids don’t even make it to their 13th birthday,” Carey tells PEOPLE. “I’m not going to waste a single day being negative when I don’t know how long she has to live. Why turn your life into a negative mess when you could be positive and make a difference?

“You ought to see her,” he says, with a laugh. “She might not be doing everything a normal child is doing, but she’s so happy.”

Mike and his wife, Tammy, began helping McKenzie enter non-special-needs beauty pageants when she was 5 years old to make her life feel as normal as possible.

However, the disease, which affects McKenzie’s speech and mobility, made it nearly impossible for her to compete onstage with the other contestants – until her dad waltzed in with his own solution.

“Okay, I understand how stressed and nervous you are,” Carey recalls saying to his concerned wife. “[I said], ‘Leave it to me. I’m going to give McKenzie the best chance to win this pageant. I’m going to give her the best chance.’ ”

Armed with nothing more than a baseball cap and as much lightness of foot as any dad can muster, Carey lifted McKenzie out of her chair and began free-styling a routine, winning a standing ovation and starting their amazing journey together.

That pageant would become the first of 20 wins for McKenzie. “I just do what I do, and perform with her and get a smile out of her,” Carey tells PEOPLE. “She loves to dance with her daddy.”

Mike and his wife have choreographed seven dances for McKenzie, ranging from two-step and hip-hop to the classical waltz, with several holiday numbers. The crowd favourite is Steven Curtis Chapman’s father-daughter ballad “Cinderella.”

“It gives me goose bumps,” Carey says of the inspired reaction they’ve received. He’s even gotten emails from people claiming the video saved them from despair.

“That’s what it’s all about. I couldn’t care less about the wins, I couldn’t care less about the losses,” he says. “If I can make a difference in this world through these videos, hey, I’ll do them forever…”

I asked the question of myself. What was it about this video that made me cry so profusely? McKenzie Carey is beautiful and her obvious smile in the middle of the dance is touching, but it was not this that made me cry. What moved me was the attempt by an obviously imperfect father to share his love for his daughter with the world. You see there is only one loving perfect Father as Jesus said in Matthew and he is not here on this earth. For the rest of us it a journey!

Watching this video reminded me of my broken promises to my children, the missed performances, the clumsy dates and the missed opportunities when my work came first and my children last. Watching father Mike Carey love his daughter in the dance gave me a strange hope that I could aspire to that journey despite my own imperfections as a father. As the Apostle Peter said ‘love covers a multitude of sins’ and ‘perfect love casts’ out all fear.


We should not think it strange that we are imperfect fathers. Even Jesus would not allow himself to be called ‘good’. Perhaps this should give us hope in our journey to fatherhood perfection. I can always remember asking a man with a happy marriage and nine children what the secret was to his happy marriage. His answer was short and to the point, “I have a forgiving wife”.

Perhaps it is the same for us as fathers. The true secret for success as a father is having forgiving children. All the more reason for us as fathers to practise our forgiveness on those around us. Love is still the most powerful force in the universe. We must become the change we seek. I think that is why the ‘Dancing Dad’ video is so inspirational.

Yours for more dancing dads
Warwick Marsh

PS. Dads4Kids is committed to make 2014 Father’s Day on Sunday 7 September the biggest single promotion of fathering excellence we have ever undertaken. Dads4kids is producing a series of new Dads4Kids TV Community Service Announcements that will be played for free over the next 12 months on Australian free-to-air TV. Dads4kids is also committed to bring Aaron Dickson, originator of the Best First Date out to Australia for Father’s Day.

Our simple goal is to ‘reach more fathers than ever before’ and so help more children than ever before. Help us help the children of Australia. Donate here.

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