Singer Ciara personally anointed New Jersey dad Kennith "Clutch" Thomas winner of her "Level Up" social-media challenge during a surprise visit to his Pennsauken dance studio.
"It was a really encouraging moment," said Thomas, 34.
Thomas' video of his dance to Ciara's song "Level Up" at the crib side of his 15-month-old son, Kristian, at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia went viral last month, garnering more than 2.7 million views. The doting dad, who often dances to cheer up his little boy, has been documenting his son's battle with leukemia on Instagram since Kristian was diagnosed earlier this year.
"I'm just being a dad at the end of the day," Thomas said. "All I really wanted to do was to continue to make him happy."
Thomas and his son have become one of the most iconic videos of the Level Up Challenge, which encourages people to post videos of themselves trying to perform the lightening-fast dance moves in Ciara's "Level Up" music video. People are also encouraged to post three ways in which they want to level up, or better themselves, as part of the challenge.
Ciara's team reached out to the family's social worker at CHOP, who brought Thomas' wife in on the plan for a surprise visit from the songstress.
Thomas was told that the folks at CHOP wanted to present him with something Thursday at his dance studio, so Thomas, his wife and their kids gathered there that afternoon.
"Then my family started showing up. Then my wife's family started showing up. Then my good friend, a photographer, showed up, and I was like 'Why are you here?'" Thomas said. "I was trying to play Inspector Gadget but nobody knew anything. My wife was the only one who knew."
When Ciara walked through the door, Thomas was stunned. She gave him a big hug and then asked whether she could hold Kristian.
"She couldn't put the baby down. She was there for a couple hours; we spoke about uplifting Kristian and about how much of a blessing he is," Thomas said. "She said she felt like it was family hanging out, and it was really cool. We was just vibing."
On the dance floor, Ciara performed the moves from her "Level Up" video with several people and danced to little Kristian as he sat enamored.
The teacher in Thomas even kicked in at one point.
"I taught her one of the grooves that I did," he said. "She did it very good, too."
Naming him winner of the Level Up challenge, Ciara presented Thomas with Level Up gear and items from her music video. Through her Why Not You Foundation, Ciara also donated $5,000 to the Thomas family's fund for travel and expenses related to Kristian's care.
On Friday, just one day after Ciara's visit, the Thomas family headed back to CHOP for Kristian's second round of chemotherapy.
On Monday morning, more gifts from Ciara arrived for them at the hospital.