5-year-old bonds with neighbor over yardwork while his dad is deployed overseas

The two now play catch, shoot hoops and work on their yards together.

— -- Two neighbors in Belleville, Illinois, are the best of friends.

While his dad has been deployed overseas, little Brian Kelly, 5, befriended his neighbor Dean Cravens.

“We moved here the end of July last year,” Brian’s mom, Barbara Kelly, told ABC News. “Their friendship started developing then, but it became very much more so since my husband left. He misses him so much.”

Brian absolutely loves yardwork, which he and his dad, Dan Kelly, enjoyed doing together.

“He loves John Deere,” she said of her son. “He gave his dad a John Deere shirt before he deployed because he loves lawn care. He told me, ‘Let Brian know I’m wearing my John Deere shirt,’ and I told him, and he just smiled. The picture of them on the lawn mower wearing the shirt was the last picture I took of Brian and my husband before he deployed.”

After his dad deployed in May with the Air Force, Brian started ringing Cravens’ doorbell.

“They bought the house, and they’re flipping it and fixing it up, so they’re always doing yardwork, and he loves to do yardwork,” Cravens said of his new little buddy. “When he sees me with my trimmers, he’d always come over and talk to me about it. He’s a hard worker. When his dad left, he’d have more time on his hands, and he’d come over and ring the doorbell. He’d ask if I could come out and play. Originally he’d ask to do more yardwork, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s do other things too,’ so we play catch, we’ll be shooting the ball, working on my golf swing.”

Now the two are inseparable, which has been fun for Cravens, a dad to three girls.

“I appreciate it a lot. I love kids and being with them. When I see they’re not having fun, I’m not,” he said. “I like to coach and teach them because you get to see them learn. I don’t have a son. I have three daughters, and we’ve had a great time, but it’s fun to be around a boy. It’s different.”

Brian’s mom said she has no communication with her husband while he’s overseas, but she thinks he’ll be grateful his son has had a role model and friend to make him smile in his absence.

“Brian knows that no one is going to replace his father. The bond between a father and son, it’s just unbreakable,” Barbara Kelly said. “If that was me, I would be happy that my child is smiling and has someone to look up to and be there for them until I get back. When Dan gets back, Brian’s going to cry and run to him with open arms.”

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