Daddy Daughter Dance for Monroe inmates made possible with Seattle Goodwill’s help

by Andrew Lang, Seattle Goodwill
February 14, 2017

Elijah was sitting with his chair pulled up to a table talking with other inmates in a Monroe Correctional Complex visitation room when out of the corner of his eye he saw what means most to him in this world walking his way.

He quickly excused himself from conversation and dashed over to embrace his daughter, Mi’Leah, and mom Lori.

Lori frequently brings Mi’Leah, 6, for visits to see her dad at the correctional facility, but this time was different. Lori was nearly brought to tears when she saw her son dressed in a criss-cross patterned green and white dress shirt tucked into gray dress pants that nicely complemented his white sneakers.

“I had tears seeing him in clothes,” Lori said. “I started blinking (to stop tears), and he said, ‘Don’t do it, mom. Don’t do it.’”

Elijah was one of eight inmates, who for four hours on Saturday, Feb. 11, had the opportunity to share a special afternoon with their daughters and family during a Daddy Daughter Dance made possible by the Monroe Correctional Complex and Seattle Goodwill.

In an adjoining room next to where the men met their families was a large, open space acting as a dance floor. Music filled the room, there was a photo station, food and beverages and some of the daughters sang karaoke. The men in attendance were given cards styled to look like a tuxedo, and on the inside flap were able to write a message to their daughters to take home as a keepsake. They were also given small, intricate origami roses encased in a 4-inch tall 3D rectangular-shaped box. A square-shaped window cutout revealed the rose inside. Inmates from one of the correctional complex’s programs made the cards and roses for the event.

Seattle Goodwill donated clothing the men were wearing, and a week before the dance Goodwill employees delivered a large selection of shirts and pants for the men to try on in order to look their sharpest come dance time.

“It shows you in a different light,” said Elijah of being able to wear clothing other than their typical prison sweats. “It shows us to ourselves who we really are. This is the first time ever my daughter is seeing me in street clothes.”

Elijah, who admitted he loves to dance, shared plenty of moves and special moments with Mi’Leah. Walter and his daughter, Tejah, 9, did too.

“I’m very appreciative of this and for Goodwill caring about the relationships we have with our daughters,” said Walter, who also had his wife Trish with him.

Tejah, who Trish said had a cheer competition the same day and time of the Daddy Daughter Dance, had to choose what she wanted to attend. But for her, the chance to share a dance with her dad was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“I was excited I got to be with my daddy,” said Tejah with a sweet smile, “because I don’t get to see him much.”

Countless smiles and laughter filled the room throughout the afternoon, illustrating a stark contrast, Lori said, to the usual mood during normal visitations.

She describe a tense, dark-cloud feeling during normal visits. The room is loud, filled with families and it’s not unusual for one crying outburst to set off a chain of negative emotions among the visitors.

Saturday, laughing and smiling felt contagious. The mood was uplifting and offered an experience the men and their families agreed they wouldn’t soon forget.

Marjorie Petersen, Community Partnerships Programs Specialist at the Monroe Correctional Complex, came up with the idea of the dance after reading about a similar event held at the Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt, Wash.

Marjorie’s assistant reached out to South Everett Job Training and Education (JTE) Manager Susan Allen, asking whether or not Seattle Goodwill would be interested in partnering and providing clothing. 

“We know that strong family ties are so important to (the inmates’) success,” Marjorie said, which falls right in line with some of Goodwill’s core values. 

And for those four hours Saturday, the eight men and their daughters in their special dresses, enjoyed a lasting moment that’s sure to strengthen their bond.


Andrew is a Content Specialist for Seattle Goodwill and has a wealth of writing, communication and digital media experience. He loves all things sports related and owns a treasure trove of memorabilia. He also enjoys storytelling, the outdoors and sugar is his kryptonite.

Add a Comment | Comments (1)
Posted by Kittie Graham Dunn CDP | Monday, Feb 27, 2017 @ 07:22 AM

This is the most beautiful, uplifting news and it brought joy to my ol' heart. This is what it is all about! This is so wonderful and those girls will cherish this memory forever, I know they will!

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