“I always told her early on that we were a good fit. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone. I would fly down there once a month. We took a couple trips down to Disney World in Florida and a couple different places with and without kids.”
Two years of dating was capped by an engagement in May 2003 and the pair married three months later.
The new family’s move to Terre Haute, where Donald had a leadership position with an insurance company, dealt a rocky start as the discourse changed abruptly, when a few hours into the drive, Caitlyn and Gregory began crying, demanding to go back to Charlotte.
While Donald made an effort to comfort the kids and make the trip fun, he made one grave mistake with Caitlyn.
“I remember when we arrived, my dad picked me up and held me upside down,” Caitlyn said. “I freaked out and I hated him for a while.”
“A lot of kids love that and think it’s great,” Donald laughed as he reflected on perhaps his biggest mistake in their relationship. “Not Caitlyn! She hadn’t even gotten upside down and I saw the look on her face and I knew that was not the right move with her.”
Over time Donald and Anna managed to overcome the hurdles associated with bringing grown children into new relationships. Whether it was trips to amusement parks or zoos, the two made an effort to provide a fun childhood for the four most important people in their lives. As their family grew, the couple shared the importance of family by making holidays, birthdays and other family occasions a critical focus.
“The kids were 4, 6, 6 and 7 when we brought them together,” Donald said. “To blend two families together, the work involved is exponentially harder. We’ve always tried to help each other, be supportive of each other and it took a year or so to make sure we understood everybody’s role. But it was the best thing we ever did.”
As Caitlyn grew up, she found success playing sports. When travel with volleyball became more and more difficult for Anna to attend, it opened the door for Caitlyn’s mother to orchestrate an experience that proved to be a significant milestone for dad and daughter.
“I kind of had to guide her and push her a little bit, and even him, too,” Anna said. “He was a little apprehensive because it was a big deal, but I was also confident that it would be a positive experience for both of them and it really paid off.”
“That was kind of the turning point,” Caitlyn remembered.
Though they were both apprehensive, Donald knew the way to the 12-year old’s heart: shopping, ice cream, and conversation. From that moment forward, Donald was the preferred parent for volleyball trips. They travelled the country together. Donald as driver and Caitlyn as navigator.
Their relationship grew stronger weekend after weekend. They bonded over ordering similar meals, sleeping in cheap hotel rooms and taking the bait on rental car upgrades.
“Travel volleyball was critical in our relationship,” Donald said. “That was the only time where it was just the two of us. We got to spend a lot of time together. With four kids and then six kids, it became more difficult to get that one-on-one time with them.”
It was during those times that Caitlyn came to the realization that Donald was her dad. There was no need to be uncomfortable or hold back in any way because she was certain he was going to be in her life forever.
“He always wants to be supportive through everything,” Caitlyn said. “That’s something that has always stuck out to me.”
So supportive in fact, that he was thrilled for Caitlyn when she committed to continue her volleyball career and education at Purdue when her final two options were between the Boilermakers and his Hoosiers.
The Indiana University alum’s closet shines of Old Gold and Black. He’s a proud Boilermaker Dad, supporting his daughter to the fullest in everything she does.
“He goes to a ton of games,” said Anna. “I try to go as much as possible, but if one of the parents has to stay back to run the kids to other events, I’m definitely the one missing out on Caitlyn’s games. That is his pride and joy. He loves going to see Caitlyn play.”
When the Boilermakers wrapped their 2017 season in the NCAA Tournament at Salt Lake City, Utah, Donald was there, cheering on Caitlyn and her teammates.
“You can say I make all of these sacrifices and what not, but I just love to do it,” Donald said. “Life is short, and I get this opportunity to watch one of my kids play at that level, have a great time and be successful. I don’t want to miss that.”
That kind of love and support is what instigated Caitlyn into crafting a grand gesture for her dad to be revealed on her 18th birthday. A few months prior, Caitlyn approached her mom asking if she could surprise Donald by having him file a legal adoption of her.
Knowing that her husband would have to have a say in the process, Anna brought Donald in on the secret. The news was not only a surprise, it confirmed the years spent building the relationship.
“What touched me the most was, I guess, I finally realized how important the role I play is to her,” Donald said. “I didn’t realize how important I was to her and I’m sure glad I didn’t screw it up. It brought us closer.”
Donald and Anna went through the process of getting the paperwork so they could surprise Caitlyn at one of their favorite lunch spots. Donald pulled out an envelope and Caitlyn knew right away what was about to happen.
“I started crying because I wasn’t expecting it since I was still planning on doing it for him,” Caitlyn said. “I thought it was cute that he really wanted to do it, too, and kind of turned my surprise for him into his surprise for me. They put so much time and effort into getting an attorney, getting the papers signed and all of that.”
“When I saw how much it meant to her it brought tears to my eyes,” Donald said. “When you see how important you are to somebody, it makes you happy, proud, all of those warm feelings a parent has.
“A lot of times at 18 years old, kids don’t want anything to do with their parents. I have one that’s telling me she wants to officially become my daughter. That was a special day that I will never forget.”
While it had been some time since the two were stepfather and stepdaughter, now it was official.
Written by Carl Danoff, videos produced by Amanda Shike, photos by Charles Jischke and provided by the Scott family.