When His Neighbor’s Father was Deployed to Syria, This Man Stepped up in a Big Way


5-year-old Brian Kelly of Belleville, Illinois was heartbroken to learn of his father’s military deployment for the Air Force in May. It is always difficult when a family is pulled into different directions like this, especially for children who might not fully understand what is going on. In Brian’s case, the youngster had a lot more time on his hands than ever before without his dad around. That is why family friend and neighbor Dean Cravens stepped up in a unique way to give Brian some structure and guidance that he was missing without the presence of his father.

Ever since the Kelly family moved into the neighborhood one year ago, Brian had observed Dean gardening in his own yard. The 5-year-old had always had an interest in things like weed whackers and  lawn mowers, and had helped his father, Daniel, with such things before his deployment.

His mother says that Brian has mentioned wanting to be a “lawn mower man” when he grows up, so it only makes sense that when Dean offered the child some lawn care jobs to keep him busy that Brian enthusiastically said yes.

Dean has three daughters, ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-six, and seems to know the value of keeping children with a lot on their minds busy. When Brian began making more frequent visits to his neighbor’s yard, he began giving him small jobs. What started as a bit of yard work developed-organically, if you can stand the pun-into a newfound friendship.

The pair of gardeners discovered that they share a lot of interests in addition to yard work, like golfing and playing baseball. Brian’s mother, Barbara, said that they would start out doing some yard chores and then Brian would suddenly say, “Want to go shoot some hoops?” And that was when she realized that the two shared a relationship much like that of a father and son.

Even Dean’s daughters call the relationship between the two of them “cute,” and say that it’s a lot like having a little brother around.

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When His Neighbor’s Father was Deployed to Syria, This Man Stepped up in a Big Way

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