Deployed for 7 months, a father got to surprise his daughter at kindergarten

A local kindergartener got a special surprise when her father showed up after serving overseas with the U.S. Navy.

Lilli Tencza, 5, a student at Palmetto Academy of Learning and Success, saw her father for the first time in 7 months on Wednesday.

Airman Jessie Tencza has been serving aboard the USS Bataan in the Mediterranean and Red Sea, with port stops in Dubai, Jordan and Bahrain, according Palmetto Academy Principal Courtney Fancher.

The whole school had gathered in the gym around 1:30 p.m. to listen to several students talk about their parent’s military deployment when Lilli Tencza was called up as part of a plan to surprise her.

“We wanted it to be special,” said Lilli’s mom Kayla Tencza. “She’s been missing her daddy for a long time.”

The Tenczas had originally wanted to pick up their daughter from school early that day but the school wanted to go bigger.

When Lilli started to speak about how she missed her dad, Airman Tencza walked out from behind a partition and gave her a hug.

“They took it to a whole new level and made it a big surprise,” said Jessie Tencza. “It really warmed my heart.”

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian