(CINCINNATI) — Siblings Karisma and Phillip Gallardo of Covington, Ky., knew they were in for a treat when they got to attend a local hockey game with their whole family last Saturday night.
What they didn’t know is that the one member of their family missing — their father, Army Sgt. First Class Phillip Gallardo — would be there too.
Karisma, 12, and Phillip, 11, were brought down to the ice at the Cincinnati Cyclops game by a member of the team’s marketing department. They thought they had been selected from the crowd to drop the ceremonial puck at the start of their game. Instead, their father, whom they had not seen in over one year, dropped a surprise on them by walking out onto the ice.
“It was outstanding,” Sgt. First Class Gallardo, just back from an approximately one-year deployment in Afghanistan, told ABC News. “They were very excited.”
While he and his children shone in the spotlight on Saturday night, it was actually the other woman on the ice, the sergeant’s ex-wife and the kids’ mother, Fawn, who put the surprise reunion together.
She got the idea after Karisma let it be known that she wanted a big surprise when her father returned, just like the other soldiers’ families she saw featured on TV and online.
“I’d planned on getting tickets to the [Cyclones] game on Saturday,” said Fawn Gallardo. “When I found out that he was flying in on Saturday, I thought, ‘It doesn’t get any better than that.’”
Fawn turned to Google to search for a contact at the Cyclones. She found one in the team’s marketing department who was more than game to pull off the surprise.
“It happened so fast,” she said. “Let’s just say I called on Monday and it happened on Saturday.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Samira Said, CNN
Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN
Kristina Tieken, FamilyShare
Eliott C. McLaughlin and Paul Vercammen, CNN