Story by Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
A couple of minutes of a dad’s film of his daughter’s first days of school has tugged the hearts of millions online.
In the footage of incoming Grand Canyon University student Madison Scruggs, her dad, Kevin Scruggs, tells her, “I love you,” every first day from kindergarten through 12th grade. Each year, the child grows older, taller and more mature but still responds, “Love you, too.”
The video montage at the end of the short film of her first days was a father’s gift to his daughter for her high school graduation. But, really, it’s a gift to all dads on Father’s Day weekend who watch it on YouTube — or saw the story from “Good Morning America,” CNN or read about it in People Magazine or a host of media outlets.
“You get tears. There is a lot wrapped up in that video,” said Kevin Scruggs, of Silverton, Wash. “As a dad, you get to see her life play out in a minute.”
He first had the brilliant idea to film Madison’s older sister, Mackenzie, a recent GCU graduate, two years before. His video of Mackenzie in 2017 went viral; the posting of Madison’s first days was nearly as popular.
“I love being a dad, and when my kids were really young, knowing they were going off to school, I thought that someday I’m going to want to see this at the end,” said Scruggs, who will celebrate both Madison’s graduation and Father’s Day on Sunday.
The Scruggs’ girls answered dad’s first-day questions on video without even rolling their eyes.
When he asked Madison if she wanted to go back for a second day of first grade, she said, “Every day.” By the time she was in 12th grade, when he asked her what was the favorite thing she did on her last day, she said, “Uhhhh, leave. I was kind of done.”
Through the years, both Madison and Mackenzie, who graduated from GCU with a degree in business management in April, matured before his eyes on film.
In grade school, they talked of sitting at tiny tables and making silly faces. In junior high, there were nerves of growing up and scolding dad about how long a wait it was for him to roll the video. In high school, they teased about going to parties, looking for cute boys or pulled out slang to answer the are-your-excited-about-your-first-day question.
“Kinda,” Madison said, before ninth grade.
It’s the kind of conversation any parent can relate to, and many did.
“It’s been humbling and overwhelming. Between the two girls’ videos, 100 million people have seen these videos,” he said. “I’m grateful that the notoriety has inspired other families. That’s the coolest thing.”
Scruggs, a pastor and small-business owner, has been contacted by many parents who want to produce similar videos. He encourages them to do whatever is right for them and to just be there for their children.
“As a dad on the other end, as they are launching into the world, I say engage with your kids. It’s totally worth it,” he said. “You don’t have to make them a video. You can take them for ice cream every Monday or go to the park.
He said he wanted his girls to go to a Christian university, at least for one year. Mackenzie visited GCU and was hooked. “We live in Washington. She came home with a tan and said, ‘I love this school.’ ”
She graduated in two years because she earned college credits in high school; Madison followed in her footsteps after shopping for schools. “I’m comparing everything to GCU,” she told her dad, “I should just go to GCU.”
On Sunday, Mackenzie, 20, and Madison, 18, will be able to tell him again that they love him, but not for the camera, and he counts himself as one lucky dad.
“When the dust settles, we have a relationship with each other, and with God.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at email@example.com or at 602-639-6764.