Some of the sweetest surprises are those that take years in the making.
A girl in Palm Harbor, Florida, recently got the surprise of a lifetime when her stepfather gave her the opportunity to become his legal daughter.
Ariane, who just turned 12, had no idea what lengths her stepdad, Drew Yocum, had gone to in order to give her the birthday gift she won’t soon forget.
The proud stepfather had decided to wait for Ariane’s birthday before making arrangments to adopt her, so that she herself could decide whether or not she wanted to officially join his family, according to WFLA-TV.
Yocum explained that kids 12 and older must sign adoption papers for themselves.
He had been a part of Ariane’s life since she was just 2 years old and had married her mother, Ashley, in 2010, according to WFTS-TV. He spent years supporting Ariane, raising her and loving her. And now was finally the right time to ask her to be his daughter forever.
“He’s not a stepparent, he’s the parent who stepped up,” Ashley Yocum told WFLA.
“He is so good to her and I’m just really lucky and blessed,” she added, according to WFTS.
“In my eyes, I don’t see [Ariane] any other way. That’s my kid. That’s my child, that’s my daughter,” Drew Yocum said.
“There’s no difference to me except for paper,” he added.
Yocum served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years before he retired in 2018. He told WFTS that throughout the last few years he spent in the military, Ashley and Ariane were always there for him.
“I served almost 8 years in the Marine Corps and deployed to Afghanistan. The girls have been around supporting me through everything I’ve done in my career,” he said.
He knew he wanted to become Ariane’s official dad once and for all.
With this aim in mind, the proud stepfather put together a fun ruse to surprise Ariane with the adoption papers. Hiding them in a fancy new backpack, Yocum and Ashley pretended that the bag contained nothing but a few gifts from the 12-year-old’s volleyball team.
Even that was enough to get the birthday girl excited.
“It’s like Christmas,” she said in the video while opening the bag to find extra sports gear inside. She had no idea that the best surprise was yet to come.
“It was jaw-dropping. I did everything I could not to cry,” Yocum told WFLA of the special moment.
It didn’t take long for Ariane to discover the adoption papers at the bottom of the bag. As soon as she realized what they were, her face lit up.
“I love you,” Yocum said. “You know you’re my daughter. I love you with all my heart and if you want to do this, then you have to sign.”
The answer was a resounding yes, as his new daughter leaped up to find a pencil so she could sign the documents immediately.
“It was the best surprise,” Ariane told WFLA. “Couldn’t think of anything better.”
“He is nothing less than my dad.”
“He’s always there for me, always believes in me and pushes me,” she added, according to WFTS.
As she will soon have a new last name, Yocum thought it only right to have Ariane’s new moniker stitched into her birthday backpack as a special reminder of the day she decided to join his family.
Her adoption is set to be finalized in December.
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