PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – Just when 12-year-old Ariane thought she was making a video for her volleyball travel team, a life-changing surprise came her way.
“It was the best surprise, couldn’t think of anything better,” said the young student from Palm Harbor Middle School. “I had no idea!”
Ariane’s mom, Ashley Yocum, was filming her daughter as the pre-teen was given a brand new backpack by the girl’s stepfather, Drew. The 12-year-old thought the gift was from her volleyball team.
Ariane is seen going through the backpack, excited by the new gear. She can even be heard saying, “It’s like Christmas!”
After pulling out new socks and knee pads, she even took out a stack of papers but set them aside to admire the other goodies.
However, what she didn’t realize was the papers contained more than just information.
The girl’s mother asked her to read the papers, and Ariane’s face lit up instantly with joy and excitement.
The papers she read would change her life. They were legal adoption papers Drew had filed.
When he recalled the moment, he told us, “It was, it was jaw dropping. I did everything I could not to cry. After I watched the video over and over again, I was getting choked up. Tears started coming out.”
He wanted to Ariane to make the final decision.
“I love you,” said Drew. “You know you are my daughter. I love you with all my heart and if you want to do this, then you have to sign (the papers).”
Ashley said Drew has been in Ariane’s life since she was 2 years old, and this process was a long time coming. Drew says, “It’s awesome. I love being a father. I don’t have my own biological kids. I don’t need them. That’s my daughter to me.”
While the couple never had children of their own, Drew always viewed Ariane as his own daughter.
“He’s not a step-parent, he’s the parent who stepped up,” Ashley said.
The couple moved to Palm Harbor two years ago after Drew completed eight years in the United States Marine Corps.
“I would say he is my dad, he is nothing less than my dad, he’s my coach, he’s always believed in me, he is my dad,” said Ariane.
Without hesitation, Ariane signed those papers, officially changing her last name to Yocum. To make it even better, the new backpack she received already had her new last name stitched into it.
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