Local firefighter becomes an internet sensation as he dances his heart out to support his newborn son in intensive care
Chris Askew is a huge fan of the social-sharing app TikTok, in which users share short clips of themselves often lip-syncing or dancing to popular music.
“I love editing, I love short videos,” says the Seminole County firefighter. “I kept seeing this dance that [popular TikToker] @adam_bam made up in his kitchen.”
Chris decided to make some lighthearted videos of his own featuring the dance, but he had no idea how popular his homage would become.
Chris posted his first TikTok video in a very unusual setting – the Ronald McDonald House near Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando. He was there because his son, Dylan – born at 30 weeks and weighing only four pounds – was beginning his fragile life in the Winnie Palmer Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“I was in the Ronald McDonald House laundry room in between loads, flipping through TikTok, and I saw the dance come up,” recalls Chris. “I decided that I’m going to do this dance until my kid gets out.”
Chris recorded himself enthusiastically performing the lively dance and uploaded the clip. The next day, that first video had already racked up 400,000 views. Chris and his wife, Danielle, received hundreds of messages from around the world. Many came from parents sharing their own NICU experiences. Some were from parents who’d lost their child in a NICU, telling Danielle and Chris their video was the first thing that has made them laugh since the tragedy. Another user posted a video of himself dancing, with the caption, ”I was born premature and was in the NICU for 2 months.”
Chris is a father of four boys under age six. Having spent time in the NICU with three of the children, he understands the struggle. The enormity of the messages and the outpouring of support from his videos really touched him.
“I kept getting these messages, and I know it’s silly, but I had to keep doing it,” Chris says, so he continued to dance and continued to post. “It was helping people somehow.”
Danielle, a nurse at the Orlando Health ER in Lake Mary, was less than thrilled when she made her debut in the second video, covering her face.
“That’s her normal reaction to what I do on a daily basis,” laughs Chris. “I embarrass her constantly.”
But Danielle’s take on the videos changed, says Chris, when so many people offered support to the family.
“She’s had so many people reach out to her privately, so she now has connections with these people,” Chris says. “It made her stint in the NICU a lot easier.”
Dylan spent 50 days in the Winnie Palmer NICU, and every day he was there, Chris posted a new TikTok video of himself dancing in various locations across Central Florida. The videos included not only a daily update on Dylan’s progress, but also some guest dancers as well. The enthusiastic hoofers included staff from Danielle’s ER, University of Central Florida mascot Knightro, his coworkers at the Midway Fire Station in Sanford, the NICU nurses who attended to Dylan, the 407 Orlando Magic Dance Team, and families and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House. Backdrops varied from downtown Orlando to the St. Johns River to the infamous I-4 eyesore in Altamonte Springs.
Chris also featured a number of local businesses in his videos, all with the goal of helping others.
“I didn’t do any self-promoting,” he says. “The goal was always to help other people.”
A GoFundMe account sprang up in conjunction with the videos and was donated to other NICU families.
The videos went viral, and the Askews’ story quickly made national headlines. Chris was featured on Inside Edition, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, and the TODAY show as well as local news broadcasts from WESH 2 and FOX 35. And yes, Chris danced with staff from every news outlet he visited. Before he was through, Chris had racked up nearly 84,000 new TikTok followers.
Dylan and Danielle came home from the hospital in early March, and the parents are pleased to report Dylan is doing well. The last dancing video features Winnie Palmer staffers lining the hallway as Danielle and Dylan are wheeled out. Everyone is dancing, and the excitement on Chris’s face is contagious.
To relive this family’s incredible experience, check out @skewu on TikTok. You won’t get the song – or the dance – out of your head.
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