A New Jersey dad recently went to hilarious lengths to entertain his special needs son during a trip to a local mall, and a video of the exchange is touching the hearts of thousands.
The now-viral video posted on Facebook over Thanksgiving weekend shows father Rich Houck surprising his son, Jacob, by posing in a window display at the Deptford Mall.
Nicole Prodin, an assistant manager at Buckle, posted photos and a video of the stunt to her Facebook page, explaining that Houck first came to her with a special request.
“You guys, my night was made tonight by a man who is such a great father,” she wrote.
You guys, my night was made tonight by a man who is such a great father. He came into Buckle and said “Hey can I ask a…
“Hey can I ask a favor?” Houck said. “My son has special needs and I wanna make him laugh, I’d like to pose in your window, if possible … .”
Prodin said she was a bit “puzzled” at first, but she agreed. She certainly did not expect what would happen next, as several shoppers stopped to witness a man going above and beyond to make his son smile.
“The whole mall was stopping to watch the action and it clearly didn’t just make my entire night,” she wrote.
Jacob, 21, was surprised and delighted, but his father didn’t anticipate the effect his gesture would have on those who witnessed their interaction.
In an interview with local station KYW-TV, Houck explained the special relationship behind the viral video.
The father of four boys said he and his other sons always do silly things to bring a smile to Jacob’s face.
“I was surprised to see the reaction of the people at the mall,” he said.
Houck, a former respiratory therapist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, recalled the day his wife called him to explain that Jacob’s health had taken a turn. Just before his fourth birthday, Jacob was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor known as Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor.
“It usually takes life before the age of two,” the father explained.
But not Jacob. The 21-year-old is living a full and joyful life, surrounded by love.
“Every day is a new day,” Houck said.
Mallgoers who witnessed the father and son Saturday were reminded that life is a precious gift, something the Houcks never take for granted.
“He’s not supposed to be here,” Jacob’s dad said. “We are enjoying every day we got with him.”