Photos by Rome City Schools
It all started with a Christmas wish from a little girl and a grandmother with a little inside information.
Teresa Price, an administrative assistant for the Rome City Schools Superintendent’s Office, wanted to surprise her granddaughter, Cora Harris, with something that has been at the top of her holiday wish list since her father was deployed to the Middle East more than seven months ago.
When Price got wind that her son-in-law, Hospital Corpsman First Class Jonathan Harris with the United States Navy, was able to make it home just in time for Christmas, she knew her granddaughter would remember his homecoming more than a Barbie House or a new bike with all of the bells and whistles.
So, she decided to reach out to her Rome City Schools’ Family and make this day one she would cherish for a lifetime.
Cora is a student at West End Elementary School and the educators there had already scheduled a holiday music concert, performed by the second grader and the children in her class on the day of his arrival. Price connected with the school’s educators, and they decided to loan Hospital Corpsman First Class Harris their Willie the Wolf mascot costume, give Cora the surprise gift of her father coming home after selflessly serving our country.
Just like any school function, the children filed into the risers and presented the crowd with songs, all with a holiday theme. When Principal, Dr. Dennis Drummond, announced that Willie the Wolf was in the building the children clapped and cheered, not knowing that Cora’s father was underneath the fur and pointy ears. Willie even had a seat reserved for him, right down front, for the show.
After the last set of applause, Willie interrupted Dr. Drummond and handed him a special note from Santa he had been clutching in his hairy fist. The letter was addressed to Cora, and Santa said in his note that he had received her Christmas list. At the top was her wish to have her father home for Christmas. Hospital Corpsman First Class Jonathan Harris then removed the mascot head and made young Cora one of the happiest little girls to ever hug a sailor.
“It is our honor to recognize Hospital Corpsman First Class, Jonathan Harris. At West End, we celebrate our veterans; we are so proud of Mr. Harris’ service to our country and the sacrifices that he is making. We are just so happy just to be a part of the homecoming, and we are also excited for Cora. I know she will have a wonderful Christmas, and I couldn’t think of a better present for her than having her entire family under one roof,” said Dr. Drummond.
“To be able to surprise my daughter this way was incredible,” Harris said. “I am so thankful for all of the respect from the community, and for Rome City Schools for allowing me to do something like this. I could never ask for more.
“Cora and I have always loved watching videos of other dads, mothers, sisters and brothers coming home to surprise their loved ones, and this was just a very special way to surprise her,” Harris continued. “In fact, during the Thanksgiving holiday, Cora even mentioned to my wife, Kortney, that she would love it if her dad could come home and surprise her like that one day. Seeing how much dedication Cora has to me being in the Navy is incredible. It truly is an honor that I could do this for her and support her like she supports me.”
“Today was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen, and I was able to be here and witness it in person,” said Price when offering her feelings about seeing her granddaughter at one of the happiest times in her life. “We have seen things like this happen on television and online, but to actually be here and be a part of it was awesome. I know that Cora got exactly what she wanted for Christmas this year, and we are so excited to spend this holiday together as a family.”
Dr. Dawn Williams, assistant superintendent of Rome City Schools, was present to witness the homecoming, one she has been keeping under wraps for a little over a month. She found out around the same time as Price and offered her thoughts after wiping tears from her eyes. “One of the goals of Rome City Schools to is provide a family environment, a place where students come to not only learn but to feel at home. It is so important for us to provide opportunities like this because children flourish that way. It is not about just achieving high test scores, it is about achieving greatness as parents, people and community members. And family comes first, always. It was such a blessing to be a part of this and we truly appreciate the opportunity. I really think that the men and women who serve our country sacrifice so much, and one of those things is being away from their families. It especially effects the kids, so being able to see Cora reunite with her father was priceless.”
From all of us at Rome City Schools, we would like to wish all of our families Happy Holidays. And to the Harris Family, enjoy the gift of a father coming home.