TAMPA — After a two-day flight from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, Makeda Oates surprised her 14-year-old son, Neal Patrick Burks, during ballet practice at the Patel Conservatory on Wednesday.
Oates is a logistics and supply coordinator for a military contractor in Afghanistan and hasn't seen her son in more than a year. Neal is practicing for the Youth America Grand Prix 2015 semifinals, which will be held Friday through Sunday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
She said she felt bad that she couldn't see her son dance in the Nutcracker last month, so this was the next best thing.
"I'm super excited to see him dance," Oates said before the big surprise.
The public is invited to the Gala Performance entitled "Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow," which will feature the winners of the semifinals with international ballet stars.
The performance is at Morsani Hall at the Straz this Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $30.