Metro-East News

His dad is deployed, so a neighbor is standing in. Their story is melting hearts.

Grab a tissue — you’ll need it. The internet can’t get enough of Belleville resident Dean Cravens and his adorable neighbor, 5-year-old Brian Kelly.

As of June 22, more than 21,000 people hit the “love button” on Twitter when they saw a photo of Brian standing at Cravens’ front door.

The soon-to-be kindergartener was patiently waiting for Cravens to come out and do yard work — a routine that has helped Brian get through the first half of his father’s deployment.

“He eats something, then comes over ... to see if I can do yard work,” Cravens said. “He doesn’t ask if I can come out and play. He wants to know if I can do yard work.”

The youngest of three, Brian wants to be “a lawnmower man” when he grows up, said his mother, Barbara Kelly.

Before his father was deployed, the two would often do yard work together. And, a week before he left, Daniel Kelly took a photo with his son on their riding lawn mower.

This is the first time that Daniel Kelly, a captain in the Air Force, has been away from the family for a long period of time, his wife said.

The distance is tough on his family, but Cravens (without knowing it) has helped to fill in the gap by doing yard work with Brian.

Now, countless hours are spent pulling weeds, trimming hedges and having fun while dad is away.

“I just enjoy being with kids,” Cravens said. “Coaching them and working them.”

Cravens, a former athletic director at Cathedral Grade School in Belleville, is helping Brian with his batting.

Cravens’ daughter, Molly, shared photos of their special bond on Father’s Day.

The post went viral.

Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, NBC and Good Morning America reached out to Molly to learn more about her dad and “little neighbor” Brian.

Their Twitter fans shared the story with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

And, people fell more in love when they found out Brian and Cravens spent time playing together on Father’s Day.

Barbara Kelly said her husband doesn’t have a way to communicate with the family right now, but if he knew what was happening, it would move him to tears.

“I don’t take any of this for granted,” Barbara Kelly said. “Dean is sincere. It comes from his heart. This is nothing he felt obligated to do. Dean is definitely a blessing to our family.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This is our little neighbor. His dad is deployed in Syria and everyday he comes to the door asking to work with our dad. Appreciate today <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Molly Cravens (@Molly_Cravens17) <a href="">June 18, 2017</a></blockquote>

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