A teenager was given a sweet birthday gift during her high school basketball game when her mom returned from a nine-month deployment in the Middle East to surprise her – and then gifted her a car for her birthday.
Kaylee Charles, who was turning 17, had no idea what was to come when she was called out in front of a gym full of people at her Mckeesport, Pennsylvania high school on January 31.
Initially, Kaylee thought she was simply receiving some birthday well wishes from her mom via FaceTime – only for “technical difficulties” to result in the feed going wrong.
That was when Kaylee’s mom, Mary Charles, a sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserve, walked onto the court.
Kaylee was left frozen to the spot in shock, before running over to her mom for a long-awaited hug.
Mary, 37, from Pittsburgh, has been in the military for 20 years, with her most-recent deployment taking her to Kuwait for nine months.
In total, it was closer to 10 months apart, Mary said, before she and her husband Kenneth decided to plan the surprise for Kaylee.
Fortunately for the family, members of the audience captured the moment on video before later sharing the clips with them.
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After the game, the family headed out of the gym, where Kaylee was then given another birthday present: a brand new car.
In the months before her birthday, Kaylee had been asking her parents for a car, and so Mary and Kenneth thought her mom’s homecoming would be the perfect time to double up the surprises.
Mary, speaking of her initial reunion with her daughter, said: “This moment was so intimate to me like I felt I was the only one in the room.
“The atmosphere was so thick with love and the cheering from the whole gym.
“I saw Kaylee run to me and I embraced her and immediately started to cry, telling her happy birthday and that I loved her.
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“Then I felt the embrace of my mother and everyone else who ran up and hugged me.
“I felt relieved after holding onto this secret for so long.
“I felt so thankful and privileged to be loved by my daughter and that her expression said it all: that she missed me.
“I didn’t expect her to run to me and that spoke volumes as well.
“It felt like she was getting off the bus from kindergarten and running into my arms again with all the love.
“It was just her and I for that moment. I loved it. It was amazing.”