A mother and her young daughter were left disappointed after being refused entry to a father-daughter dance they were told they could attend.
The father of Caitlin Sumey’s daughter, Isabella, left them when Isabella was 6 months old. When Isabella learned that a father-daughter Valentine’s Day dance was being held at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, she asked her mother to take her.
“We did see that it was a father-daughter dance, so my stepdad offered to take her and then my boyfriend offered to take her,” Caitlin told WOOD. “But she said ‘no,’ she wanted her mom to take her, because for so long it’s just been us two.”
“She knows I’ve played both roles, so she said, ‘If you can’t go, I don’t want to go,’” she added. “So I said, ‘OK, I’ll call and I’ll see.’”
Caitlin bought two tickets after being told by the Bernhard Center — the venue hosting the event — that it would be OK for her to bring Isabella.
“I had one guy actually say how awesome I was for taking my daughter to a father-daughter Valentine’s Day dance,” she said.
The two got dressed up and arrived to the dance, only to be told they couldn’t enter.
“They said, ‘Your mother is not a man. She cannot take you,’” Caitlin recalled, adding that Isabella started to cry.
“As a mother, that broke my heart,” she said.
It turns out that Caitlin had contacted the wrong organization before the dance. The event was put on by the Kalamazoo Junior Girls Organization, which says mothers are not allowed. The organization’s director told WOOD that the purpose of the dance is to emphasize the importance of male role models in girls’ lives.
There was a similar incident in 2016, when Molly VanKeuren accompanied her daughter to the dance. They were stopped at the door and were only allowed entry after VanKeuren explained that her husband had died of cancer.
“They damaged the little girl’s feelings,” VanKeuren said of the decision to turn Isabella away. “She’s going to always remember that. My daughter remembers [the dance] very nicely, and she said it was the best night of her life. But this little girl doesn’t have that. I don’t like that.”
She added the event’s organizers should consider the fact that a lot of girls don’t have men in their lives to bring to the dance.
“I don’t think it’s right,” she said.
The Kalamazoo Junior Girls Organization told WOOD that Caitlin and Isabella would be reimbursed, but added that it does not regret having denied them entry to the dance.