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On Jan. 6, after spending a week at Disney World, Shanell Mouland and her family were on a flight from Orlando, Fla., to Philadelphia, to catch a connection to their hometown of New Brunswick, Canada. Mouland's husband and their 5-year-old daughter, Grace, sat in one row, while Mouland and 3-year-old Kate, who has autism, sat behind them. Mouland was a bit nervous — depending on Kate's mood, the young girl's behavior can range from affectionate to hysterical, so a patient and understanding seatmate would be crucial.
In an open letter titled, "Dear Daddy in Seat 16C," posted on Thursday on her blog "Go Team Kate," Mouland writes, "I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that … I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million-dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it. You smiled at her and she said: 'Hi, Daddy, that's my mom.' Then she had you."