MOUNT AIRY, NC – For many of us, last March seems like a lifetime away. Virginia Tech super fan Dani Jo Hearl and her dad were at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro when the entire event shut down due to COVID-19.
“Well like for everybody else, it was pretty unexpected. We weren’t prepared for it,” said Dani Jo’s father Joey.
“The girls are like ‘Hey, school is shut down’ we’re thinking they will be home for a week then go back to school. Then a week turned into months.”
After some restrictions were lifted, most people were comfortable with going to restaurants or seeing their friends. Dani Jo, however, was considered high risk due to a rare disease.
“We’re talking six months essentially that Dani Jo has been off our property, out of the house, I guess 2 times,” said Joey Hearl.
Then one night in July, Joey and Amanda Hearl put Dani Jo to bed. Business as usual.
“I heard something on the monitor and I remember walking to the monitor and holding it to my ear and she was crying. So I walked into her room and I could tell she was really emotionally upset and tears were streaming down her face. I sat down beside her and said ‘What in the world is wrong honey, what are you crying about?’ She looked up and said “I miss my friends, I don’t have any friends to come see me.””
A small sentence that would break any parents heart. So joey took to Twitter, a place where Dani Jo is well known for her charming videos, and had a simple request.
“Hey pray for my little girl, she’s really sad, she misses being around people right now. If you have a card laying around your house, or have time to write her a little note or letter to mail that to her,” Hearl posted on Twitter.
Dear Twitter— Hearl Family (@HearlFamily) July 7, 2020
Our little girl is sad 😞 and we are asking if you can help cheer her up with a letter, text, etc.
If you ask her who her friends are, she would tell you @HokiesMBB @HokiesWBB @HokiesFB 🦃🏀🏈 and, of course, @Zionwilliamson
🧡❤️ Joey and Amanda 🦃🦃 pic.twitter.com/1XbYtsEzrJ
And for the next couple weeks, Dani Jo had this to look forward to. It turned out to be more than they ever expected.
Nearly 500 cards and messages from family, friends, strangers, and her beloved Hokies.
“I saw a pretty quick change in her that ‘Hey I’m going to be okay because even though I can’t see people in a physical sense, see people everyday or hug people every day, I’m still feeling the love that they’re writing,’” Hearl said.
While 2020 may be a year no one will forget, the Hearl family will certainly always remember this summer.
“There is still good in our country, and we’re certainly grateful for the people who have shown us that.”