Bride gives up father-daughter dance for bridesmaid and her terminally ill dad

(Denyse Dias/BelleRey Photography)

REHOBOTH, Mass. (WPRI) — A Rehoboth bride is gaining national attention for a selfless act on her wedding day — turning attention from herself to one of her bridesmaids for a father-daughter dance — a moment many young women and their fathers look forward to their entire lives.

Michaela Cook-Yotts and Jessica Otto have been best friends for nearly two decades, from Girl Scouting together in second grade, to bride and bridesmaid this past February.

When Michaela married her wife Nora, the couple decided to give the dance typically reserved for the bride and her father to Jessica, her sister Megan, and their father Peter.

“I didn’t know if we would ever have that opportunity, so it definitely meant a lot for me,” Jessica told Eyewitness News Thursday. “It was so selfless of them to do that for us, and I could never thank them enough, ever.”

Jess’s father has battled various forms of cancer since 2001 — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, CNS or central nervous system lymphoma, and a brain tumor. In April, he relapsed for the fourth time. Jess says he’s a man of few words, but she knows the dance meant the world to him.

(Denyse Dias/BelleRey Photography)

“He doesn’t tell you how he feels. He’s not very emotional. But he still shows how he feels, he shows it,” said Jess. “And in that moment when he was dancing with me and Megan, he just hugged us close and pulled us close to him. That just said all we needed to know.”

Peter is a patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He and Jess have ridden in several Pan-Mass Challenges together.

“Dana-Farber is the hospital that has given me so many, so many more years with him. If it wasn’t for the doctors and the nurses at Dana-Farber, he wouldn’t have made it this long,” said Jess.

As her father’s health is deteriorating, Jess will ride the PMC solo this year.

“The money that I raise may not be able to save my family, but it will save a girl in the future from going through the same thing I’m going through with my dad. That’s enough for me. I’ll continue doing it for as long as I can,” Jess said.

Together, Jess and her father have raised more than $63,500 for Dana-Farber. If you’d like to support Jessica’s 2017 ride — her fourth– go to her fundraising page at the PMC site.