Twin cheerleaders share tearful reunion with Airman dad who dressed as school mascot to surprise them

RALEIGH — Durant Road Middle School cheerleaders A’nina and Zoe Pasco thought it was odd that the school’s dolphin mascot looked a lot taller than normal at Monday’s girls’ basketball game.

But nothing could prepare the 14-year-old twin sisters for when the dolphin removed his headpiece during halftime to reveal that it was their father, U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Anthony Pasco, who the two hadn’t seen since June.

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever,” A’nina said after she and Zoe ran up to hug their father.

Anthony Pasco is an officer recruiter for the Air Force stationed in San Antonio, Texas.

The eighth-grade students knew that their father was going to arrive Tuesday to take them back with him to Texas for the holidays.

But when Pasco said he wanted to surprise the girls by coming up early for Monday’s basketball game, Paula Washington, their mother, thought the mascot costume would “take the surprise to the next level.”

Jodi Dimond, Durant’s cheerleading coach, readily signed on to the surprise.

“The girls had mentioned to me before how they missed their dad,” Dimond said. “When the mom asked me, I knew they were going to be so excited.”

The school had to think of a way to explain why so many reporters were at the game. The students were told that a documentary was being made about Hakim Jones, the boys’ basketball coach and a former N.C. State University athlete.

When Pasco first walked into the gym shortly before halftime, Dimond said the cheerleaders began guessing who might be in the dolphin costume. Normally a sixth-grade female student wears the costume.

Pasco admits the idea of the surprise seemed less fun as he tried to move around in the cramped, hot costume waiting for halftime to begin.

“As the time ticked, I just kept going ‘Oh please hurry up,'” Pasco said.

But the reaction when Pasco revealed his identity was worth the brief discomfort. Both girls were in shock, with A’nina saying she had to resist the temptation to jump on him and knock him down.

“I was shaking,” Zoe said. ” I couldn’t breathe.”

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