Monday, January 17, 2022

Sweethearts on the Dance Floor


It is a special moment in a young girl’s life when she dresses up and attends a dance with her dad. For both dad and daughter, the experience creates memories lasting a lifetime.

Last weekend was a night to remember at the Greater Marco Island YMCA. Daughters, between two and twelve years old, were escorted by their special Valentines to the annual Daddy Daughter Sweetheart Dance. The evening affair facilitated bonding between the girls and their fathers or male role models.

The YMCA works hard to meet the needs of the community, providing a wide array of family activities, such as the dance. Youth Development Manager, Stephanie Pepper has successfully run the event for the last 12 years. Not having anything like this when she was a child, Pepper wanted to create something special for families in Marco Island.


“My dad is very important to me. If there were an event like this that he could have taken me to, it would have stayed with me forever.” Pepper stated. “These little girls look forward to this opportunity all year long.”

One of the most critical role models in a young woman’s life is her father and the memories they create together. While the typical attendee is a father, a male guardian or role model may also bring their plus one.

Originally, the dance started out as the “Sweetheart Dance Under the Stars” that used to run at the Dotty Weiner Pavilion around the swimming pool. But one year, the weather was incredibly cold, and the event moved indoors. Since then, the night would no longer be done under the stars and took on the new name. When the youth center opened, the building was a perfect place to host the event, and it has flourished to what it is today.


This year consisted of a fresh new group of young attendees. Since the event is over a decade old, many of the daughters have phased out of the age group. Past attendees still write to Pepper every year and ask if they can volunteer or help out in any way. To continue the legacy, the YMCA hopes that any fathers who have teenage daughters attend a new version of the dance created for 13 to 17-year-olds on the same night.

Photos by Jesus Calo

Photos by Jesus Calo

Like any youth social event, there was pizza galore catered by Little Caesar’s. Once the families all ate, dads and their daughters crowded the dance floor. They busted out their best moves to popular songs from artists like Taylor Swift and familiar tunes by Michael Jackson.

This dance gives dads, most of whom spend long hours at work away from home, an opportunity to share a moment honoring their daughters. “I may not get to spend as much time with my daughter as I would like to, but tonight makes family time extra special,” longtime attendee, Scott Roloff commented. To which daughter Ginger agreed, “It’s a fun time with my dad!” The Daddy Daughter Sweetheart Dance creates lifelong memories between dads and their daughters. For future events at the Greater Marco Island YMCA, visit


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