At CYT, we do become each other’s extended family! However, we know that we can’t replace the real thing. Recently, a CYT San Diego family, enjoyed the thrill of a surprise reunion with their dad/husband upon his return from serving overseas as part of our U.S. Military. Watch the sweet video below. Then, dry you eyes and read the touching interviews describing how this joyful reunion came to be on a CYT stage and how CYT helped this family keep their chins up while their soldier was deployed.
Thank you to Vittoria Allen from CYT San Diego for this precious story!
Q&A with Erin Kelly, CYT South County Area Coordinator
Q: How long have the Stellas been doing (CYT San Diego) South County CYT?
A: The Stellas started doing CYT around 5 years ago. I met them when I directed my first show in South County, Seussical. Our girl’s (both Madi and Maddie) started Wiggles together when they were 4 and 5. They were best friends since day one and so were Rachel and I, really.
Q: When did Rob get in touch with you to plan this surprise? What was
A: Rob contacted me about two weeks prior to the BIG surprise. He said I’m coming home for a week, on opening night, and asked me to help orchestrate a fun surprise for his family. I was BEYOND thrilled of course. And I LOVE surprises. I would have to say we pulled off the best surprise yet.
Q: We see videos of military personnel reuniting with / surprising their family in the media, but what was it like being a part of planning it and seeing it happen in person?
A: It was extremely emotional and exciting! The Stellas are our best friends and seeing the kids and Rachel react was a moment I will treasure and never forget. That created a memory for our entire CYT family.
Rob & Justin Stella celebrate their reunion with a Mulan photo op!
Q: What is your favorite thing about the Stella family?
A: They are CRAZY! But in the best way. You know….that good kind of crazy that always keeps you on your toes and totally wondering what they will do next. They make me laugh like no one else. And that alone would be my favorite thing about them, but they are so much more than humorous. They are the most genuine, kind, and loving family you would ever meet. It is an honor to have them in SoCo CYT and an even bigger honor to have them in my family’s life. I just love them to the moon and back. Families like this one are the heart and driving force of CYT and what we are all about.
Q&A with Rob and Rachel Stella
Q: Rob, when were you deployed?
A: December 1st, 2014 to Bahrain for 12-13 Months
Q: How are you able to be home for the week?
A: I was sent to the U.S. to attend a school in Mississippi and was afforded a week of leave prior to so I could surprise the family.
Miss Maddie Stella welcomes her daddy, Rob, back from overseas.
Q: Rob, tell us about your family’s reaction!
A: My heart melted when I saw my family’s reactions. Made it all worthwhile. Rachel said later how sad she was that our oldest son, Dylan, was not here since he just left for a camp for the weekend. I told her I had the Pastor taking the kids to camp bring him to lunch and I surprised him there. Best part is Rachel dropped Dylan off and picked him up but never knew any different. I was hiding across the street until she left.
Rob & Rachel Stella.
Q: Rachel, were you expecting this at all?
A: First off, kudos to Erin and Rob. I was 100% not expecting something like this. Rob has been deployed several times and has never done anything like this. This is also a hard one for us as it’s a lot longer than past deployments. Plus, the kids are older and it seems to get harder for them the older they get.
Q: How has CYT helped your family during deployments?
A: Actually, CYT blessed us for the first time, in a great way, 5 years ago. Rob was deployed to Afghanistan and our son, Justin, was having a hard time with the separation. Honestly, though I tried not to show it, deployment was hard for me at times too. It was hard to not think about him being in danger all the time. This is where CYT saved us. Justin started spring classes and auditioned for Narnia. The CYT environment was just what we needed. My little boy was welcomed into the group like a long lost little brother. I had never experienced anything like it. He came alive. Truly. It was magic to watch. The director, Brad Davis, was so great with him too! He let him be himself and never lost patience with him. We will forever be grateful for that. As for me, CYT became my support system. The other parents were so nice and always willing to guide me through the process. They were also so great with my other two kids. No one complained when I had to bring my little one to the theater. In fact, they doted on her. That little girl grew up backstage and it’s so cool to see her ON the stage now. I looked forward to the time we would spend at the theater. I still do! Time flew by. Rob returned a day after the show closed. He tried desperately to get there for the show but it just didn’t work out. But when that next show came, he jumped in full force and has been a part of every show since. Our oldest son, Dylan has also crewed a few shows. We love that our whole family can be involved in something like this. Rob once told me he was afraid that someday the kids would look back and be sad about all the time their dad was gone. I told him that if they have so much fun when they are together, they won’t remember all the time he was gone. CYT will always be a big part of our happy memories!
Bravo, Stella Family! We all send you a standing ovation!