BELMONT — Three-year-old Noelle Ferriera was having panic attacks at night because her father, Air Force 1st Lt. Rob Ferriera, had left home to be deployed in Southwest Asia in January.
Her mother, Vania Ferriera, found a cure for the tears on the website for Ellen DeGeneres’ television show “Ellen”: videos of military families being reunited on the show that Noelle and brother Jack, 2, watched before they went to bed.
“I tell them, daddy will be coming home, daddy will be coming home,” Vania Ferriera said. “Now they love Ellen.”
Then, last month, after hearing that her husband’s roommate had stolen his boxer shorts, she wrote to DeGeneres, asking if the TV host would help out airmen overseas by donating boxer shorts.
“They don’t all have access to laundry facilities all the time,” Vania said. “I thought maybe she might want to help out the men and women who don’t have laundry facilities available.”
Last Thursday night, Vania, Noelle, and Jack found themselves on the set of Ellen, and were reunited with Rob via Skype onstage in an episode that aired Monday afternoon.
“I was shocked, I didn’t know she was going to ask us on the show,” Vania Ferriera said Monday afternoon. “It was one big whirlwind.”
Vania Crevier Ferriera, 25, a Belmont native, married Rob Ferriera, 26, of Candia four years ago. Rob, an Air Force air battle manager, was deployed somewhere in Asia — his wife is not allowed to say where — at the beginning of the year.
The family now is stationed in Ogden, Utah, where they Skype with Rob once every two weeks or so, said Vania, who is 7½ months pregnant with the couples’ third child.
Rob is expected to come home in August, she said, at about the time Vania is expected to give birth.
On the show, DeGeneres gave the Ferrieras a check for $20,000 to help pay the couple’s student loan bills, and sent the family a large box of boxer shorts, Vania said. She also gave the family the equivalent of her show’s Mother’s Day gift package, which included a flat-screen television, appliances, and other items.
As Vania cried, Rob described his feelings, being far away from his family.
“It’s difficult, missing their walking and talking … at such a young age, it’s difficult,” he said.
As for the underwear, Vania was hoping DeGeneres would make a donation to the American Expeditionary Force Retreat, which helps military couples and families deal with the problems that go with overseas deployments of family members.
But she was happy with the donation she received. DeGeneres gave the couple a small version of the larger box of boxer shorts she sent to the family, “so they won’t have to share” their underwear anymore.
“It was a blessing, the whole experience, and we are grateful,” Vania said. “The kids love Ellen, and seeing their daddy there, I think it helped them believe he’s coming home.”