It started with a coincidence involving a pilot, a passenger and an aspiring ballet dancer, and, in the end, the pieces came together like a perfect duet on a stage.
Southwest Airlines and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center have been working together for about three months in the name of making one young girls' dream come true.
When Emily Kasinger, 12, of Missouri first wrote a four-paragraph-long essay about how she wants to someday be a professional dancer or dance instructor, she never imagined she's soon be on a flight to the empire state to attend a black tie gala, and watch four performances of the New York City Ballet, in person.
On Wednesday night Kasinger stepped-off a Southwest airlines flight from her home state of Missouri all smiles and holding a large dry cleaning bag that included a huge, pink ball gown.
The trip may have been in the planning stages for three months, but the 12-year-old only learned the details of the dream vacation 24 hours before she took off.
"I'm excited. I've never done this!" Emily said about her upcoming jaunt to SPAC.
Waiting to meet her at Albany International Airport was a long awaited hug from the chair of SPAC's New York City Ballet Gala Chair Andrea Spungen.
"It's so nice to meet you!" Spungen said to Emily as the two embraced.
But this meeting was no accident.
In fact, the stars had to line-up for this airport introduction to happen.
The story begins in March on a Southwest flight from Albany to San Francisco when pilot and fifth-grade mentor Gary Hooyman read an essay young Emily had written over the aircraft's loud speaker.
The essay was about young Emily's dream of becoming a ballerina as part of Southwest's 'Adopt a Pilot' program.
Eight-hundred Southwest Airlines Pilots participate in the 15-year-long effort that touched the lives of 42,000 students nationwide just last year alone.
Hooyman, who also piloted the plane from Missouri to Albany said, "We go into the classrooms and we mentor students, and we talk to them about what life is like from the pilot perspective. But maybe most importantly of all, is we try to get them to imagine what their favorite job might be when they grow up, and we get fifth graders engaged in thinking about what they would want to do, and the fact that education is the key to them reaching their goals."
Spungen, a dancer and instructor herself, was on board that flight back in March when Hooyman shared the essay, and she says she was instantly inspired by Emily's story.
Spungen said, "Emily's essay, which is really what this is about, was really, for her age, I mean, fantastic. She knew about Julliard School, she really knew her stuff. And so I wrote her back and said, you know, I loved this story, I was an aspiring ballet dancer. I was the most impressed with how realistic she was. At one point in the essay she said, you know, "Even if I don't make it as a professional dancer, I'd like to teach, so it was just really well thought out for her age, and (it was) sweet!"
Gary the pilot put Andrea the SPAC New York City Ballet Gala Chair in touch with Emily, and before you knew it, she was on a plane, picking out a light pink ball gown, and heading into her first of four nights watching the New York City Ballet, in person.
Kasinger said, "I really want to just see the dancers, and I hope that they will help me improve my dancing, a lot!"
When asked why she enjoys dancing so much the fifth grader said, "When I'm dancing, I feel so happy, because I can express my feelings in a different way than talking."
And after spending long hours in the car driving 30 minutes to and from the dance studio four days per week, for seven hours per day Emily's mother Gerri Kasinger couldn't be more proud of all that her daughter has accomplished.
"It's pretty cool, it's pretty cool. I'm proud of her. Whatever she wants to do, she puts her heart to it, and sets her mind to it, she can do it," she said.
SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White said, "At SPAC, we're trying to build the next generation of artists, and audience, and when you can make a little girls' dream come true, you do it. I think Emily may have had her dream come true, but our gift will be Emily becoming a dancer and being on that stage."
After touching down, Emily spent the evening at the American Girl night on the lawn at SPAC.
From here, her trip will include tickets to each New York City Ballet performance, backstage passes and even private instruction from professional dancers for her and a friend from dance school.
The Kasinger family wanted to thank Southwest Airlines and SPAC for all they've done to help Emily realize her dream.