Carrier's early return helps Santa fulfill child's wish

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by Brian Farrell

WVEC.com

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 20 at 12:41 AM

HAMPTON -- Santa's Wonderland in Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World lived up to its name for Anthony Leonard Wednesday.

Leonard, who turns 4 in January, was with his mother and younger brother to have their picture taken with Santa. Just behind the door to Santa's Workshop was Anthony's father who returned to Naval Station Norfolk earlier in the day aboard USS Eisenhower.

The aircraft carrier came back from deployment months ahead of schedule in order to have its flight deck replaced.

As ABE3 Edward Leonard stepped out of hiding, an excited Anthony said, "My daddy! My daddy! Oh, Daddy!"

"He's told me, 'Can we go see Santa, maybe?' and I said, 'Yeah, maybe, you know, we'll get him to come home. Maybe we'll see what Santa can do.' 'Okay, Mommy.' Every night before he goes to bed: 'I really want my daddy,'" shared Kayla Leonard.

"I mean, being able to see my kids open up Christmas presents, you know, actually there, instead of you know, on camera, you know, on a video link-up my wife would send me is just, it's absolutely amazing," Edward Leonard told 13News.

The sailor's mother came up with the idea to surprise Anthony and his brother, 1-year-old Zachary.

"We were gonna put Eddie in a box, and put him out in the yard, and we were gonna bang on the door and have him jump out of a box, and, then, we decided to come here," Shirley Dunleavy said.

"I love Bass Pro Shops," stated Mark Dunleavy. "I think it's the greatest store for any place, and I mean, what they do for the kids around Christmas is fantastic, and when I first brought this up, they didn't bat an eye. I mean, these guys: 100 percent ready to go."

"I love it. He's my heart. He's my oldest. He's my heart," said Shirley Dunleavy of her son.

"I teared," admitted Mark Dunleavy as he burst into laughter. "Don't tell too many people, but, no, it's great. It's a great feeling. It makes you feel all warm inside, you know, especially with everything that's been going on around the world lately, you know. This is our happiness right here, you know. I wish everybody could have the same thing."

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