At Villa Duchesne High School's advanced show choir's Christmas concert on Sunday, December 8, 15-year-old freshman Ashley Stehle stepped forward to sing a solo.
The performance was a carefully planned surprise for her father. For the first time in his 50 years, the St. Peters, Missouri, man was going to be able to hear her sing.
Deaf his entire life, Ken Stehle had just received a new Phonak Naida hearing aid, which requires the speaker — or, in this case, singer — to wear a special microphone. Stehle wears a receiver around his neck which transmits the sound to his hearing aid.
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Until this brand-new technology became available, Stehle relied on lip-reading and sign language interpreters to communicate.
"I knew he was getting a hearing aid but I didn't know if it was going to work," Ashley said.
As Ashley sang her twist on the classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" — she changed the lyrics to "Daddy, please come home" — there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
"He was just closing his eyes and listening to my voice. He didn't really care if he was seeing me because he has always seen me, he wanted to hear me and that was just awesome," Ashley tells KDSK.
"It's amazing, I had goose bumps all over me. I'm very proud of my daughter," Ken recalls.
The sweet father/daughter story quickly went viral.
"I love being able to spread a little Christmas hope. If my gift inspired anyone, then that's all I can hope for. I love how everyone has been able so supportive. My dad and I are just blown away!" Ashley tells Shine On of the media attention.
According to the school's internal communications coordinator, Elle Madras:
"One element of this phenomenon that has been so special for our community is the global outreach. We are part of the international network of Sacred Heart schools (sofie.org) and we have sister schools in nearly every major city in the United States, Canada (Halifax and Montreal), and other countries.
"So not only did Ashley go to a sister school for elementary school, Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, Mo., she is also making waves at our schools around the world who will share in this joyful family moment. When the Stehle family got a call from a news outlet in Australia and again in the United Kingdom—that makes our network that much more impactful for the students."