While his father is stationed overseas, a 5-year-old boy in Belleville, Illinois bonds with a neighbor over yardwork.

It was not easy for 5-year-old Brian Kelly when he knew he would have to live apart from his father, 43-year-old Dan Kelly, who was called on a mission with the Air Force and would be away for half a year. 

To a boy at his age, six months separated from his father’s care could be a devastating amount of time. His mother, Barbara, told Today that Brian could not hold back tears as he heard the news.

“Brian misses his father,” mom Barbara Kelly says of her youngest son. “He’s a shy boy, and he loves his daddy.”

The son and father would usually spend their time together doing yardwork, and Brian was especially keen on that.

“Brian is fascinated with weed wackers and lawn mowers,” his mother revealed. “He says he wants to be a lawn mower man when he grows up.”

But as Dan was serving his mission away from home, how could the boy carry on with such quality activity?

That was when Brian started to lean on his neighbor, Dean Cravens, father of three daughters from 16 to 26 years old. 

As the family first moved into the area over a year ago, Brian and the Cravens would notice each other outside as the child accompanied his father with their yard chores.

“We moved here the end of July last year,” Brian’s mom, Barbara Kelly, told ABC News. “Their friendship started developing then, but it became very much more so since my husband left. He misses him so much.

“They bought the house, and they’re flipping it and fixing it up, so they’re always doing yardwork, and he loves to do yard work.”

Cravens said of his little neighbor, “When he sees me with my trimmers, he’d always come over and talk to me about it. He’s a hard worker.”

When Brian’s father was away, Brian began to appear at the Cravens’ door.

“He had more time on his hands without his dad around. He didn’t have that person,” Dean said. “He’d ask if I could come out and play. Originally he’d ask to do more yardwork, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s do other things too,’ so we play catch, we’ll be shooting the ball, working on my golf swing.”

Craven said they began to form a special father-son-like bond, as they shared a mutual interest in so many things, such as golf, baseball, and basketball.

“I appreciate it a lot. I love kids and being with them. When I see they’re not having fun, I’m not,” he said. “I like to coach and teach them because you get to see them learn. I don’t have a son. I have three daughters, and we’ve had a great time, but it’s fun to be around a boy. It’s different.”

Barbara added that although she could not reach Dan while he was away, she knew he would be consoled that it was the Cravens who stepped in and took care of his little son.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.