Shanell Mouland, her autistic daughter and the stranger in a business suit who sat next to them on a plane have captured hearts all over the country.
Mouland's viral blog post, titled "Dear 'Daddy' in Seat 16C Flight 1850 From Philly" begins like this:
"Dear Daddy, I don't know your name but Kate called you 'daddy' for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her."
Shanell Mouland, of Brunswick, Canada, sat in the window seat of a flight, deciding to put her 3-year-old daughter, Kate, in the middle seat because of her obsession with opening and closing the window shade.
Kate is autistic, which means her social and communication skills aren't developing normally. As soon as Eric Kunkel, of New Jersey, sat down, Kate began rubbing his arm.
"Being on the plane, the goal was really survival," Mouland said in an interview with USA TODAY. "I just wanted to get Kate from point A to point B. Even if Kate gets upset, planes are a no-escape scenario for us."
Mouland's blog post continues on to describe the plane ride from Mouland's point of view.
"Thank you," Mouland ended her letter. "Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl."
"I never apologize for Kate, but I do explain her situation," Mouland said. "He cut me off and he said no worries and immediately interacted with her. He wanted to hang out with this cool little wild, turtle-crazy kid."
Shanell and Kunkel are Facebook friends now, but she says "he doesn't want any recognition."
"But he just thinks he madea good friend on that flight," Shanell says. "A good friend in Kate."