North Platte, Nebraska had a flood of tears at the Platte River Mall—happy tears, that is. 

Celebrating Christmas was going to be bittersweet for the Ross kids. Seven months ago, their father was deployed to South Korea with the U.S. Air Force. He still has months to go on his assignment. 

However, Staff Sergeant Jacob Ross was able to take leave to be home for Christmas. He wanted to surprise his girls with an extra-special homecoming memory.

Once arrangements were made for the trip home, the fun of planning the surprise started. 

Cassie Condon, property manager at the mall, said the mall’s Santa came into her office several weeks ago to make the request. 

“He wanted my permission to hide their dad behind the sleigh. All I could say was ‘We need to make this happen. Whatever it takes,'” Condon said.

And happen it did, right around 5 p.m. on December 16th.

Alleasha, Jacob’s wife, drove to McCook to pick him up after his flights while the girls spent time with their grandmother. Even the weather wanted the reunion to happen. Despite icy weather conditions in eastern Nebraska, the travel conditions to Denver, McCook, and North Platte remained dry and easy to navigate. 

Aurora and Rylinn didn’t suspect a thing. They got dressed up for their pictures with Santa and went to the Platte River Mall in North Platte for their lap time. 

Condon stated “Everything went so well. Even the Christmas music we have randomly playing cooperated. The song ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ was playing in the background. I couldn’t have planned it better.”

Rylinn didn’t hesitate when Santa asked what she wanted. “Can you bring my Daddy home?”

Santa said he’d do his best to honor their requests, and then noted “I think the elves sent me something special in the sleigh.”

Aurora noticed a person sneaking out from behind the sleigh. With a gasp, she jumped off Santa’s lap, and Rylinn was right there with her. 

Ah, you know what? Watch the video, and have a box of tissues handy.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016. We reached out to the mother of these sweet girls—and she shared an updated family photo with us! You can follow her family on Instagram.


Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.