KILLEEN, Texas — There's nothing quite like the bond between a father and daughter, which is why it's so heartbreaking for so many to think about that special bond being taken away too soon.
The death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna after a Helicopter crash, brought the world to a standstill. The pair were on their way to Gianna's basketball game when the helicopter went down and killed Kobe, Gianna, and seven others.
Stories of Bryant's devotion to his four daughters have influenced proud fathers across the globe. This includes dads in Central Texas who have been a part of the "#GirlDad" movement long before it was a hashtag.
In Killeen, we find Central Hicks in familiar form, cheering on his daughters' success. Hicks has four children, two of whom are his daughters.
His youngest, Cherith, is signing on the dotted line in February, to commit to attend West Point and join their track program after her senior year at Shoemaker High School.
Hicks is a teacher at Shoemaker High, a mentor, and a girls' soccer coach. He instills valuable lessons like hard work and confidence in his daughters and helps them through everything from choking hazards to sports injuries.
"One time I swallowed pennies and I was choking and I don't know how my dad knew, he was in the back of the house. He flew out of his room did the Heimlich maneuver on me and literally saved my life," Cherith said. "He was at every single game. Whenever I got hurt my dad was the one who ran on the court and carried me off in his arms like I was a four-year-old. So stuff like that is just like, "Wow," If I didn't have my dad, I don't know who I'd turn into."
Hicks said keeping God first and showing his daughters' respect has been key. He said it's been a blessing to play a small role in molding them into the powerful women they are today. He's glad the #GirlDad movement has encouraged more fathers to do the same.
"Fathers matter. Fathers are here. We are present. We do get the job done and we're not just waiting for our sons to go take over the world, but we're setting up this whole army of girls who are preparing themselves to take over the world also. So people better get ready for it because they're coming," Hicks said.
That sentiment rang true across town for Kyle Moore.
Moore, a Killeen Police Officer, helps homeless people in the area find stability. His most important job of all, though, is being a dad to seven-year-old Kailee.
"I like that he's kind and works at a police station. He teaches me not to bully other people," Kailee said.
The pair have taken cross-country trips and enjoyed daddy-daughter dances. Moore also supports Kailee in Girl Scouts, track, dance and school plays.
He said the passing of Kobe and Gianna reminded him to cherish every moment with his little girl. He hopes he is setting an example his daughter can follow as she grows older.
"I'm very very proud of my family and I love my wife dearly and I want to show them that's how a man is supposed to take care of their family and treat their wife," Moore said.
In Waco, Ivan Leblanc runs a successful barbershop while devoting much of his time to mentoring young children and encouraging students to read. All of this on top of raising three accomplished daughters.
"I mean, I love his personality and the things that he's instilled in us which has helped us to become better young ladies," Leblanc's daughter Davia said.
Their favorite memories surround attending Baylor Games, having their dad as a team coach and holding daddy-daughter tea parties. Leblanc said having strong relationships with all of his daughters has helped keep them on the right track.
"All of them are active in church and the community and school. It's just been a pleasure and thrill to see them go from a day or two old to young women," Leblanc said.
Although Kobe and Gianna are gone, these fathers find comfort in knowing their legacy and this #GirlDad movement will live on through them and so many others.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant's public memorial will be held on Monday morning in Los Angeles.
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