A stepdad fought back tears as he turned to the last page of a photo album filled with memories of him and his stepdaughter to discover a heartfelt adoption request.
When Kayleigh Hafley, aged eight, handed Dennis Starr Jr., 27, a photo book, he began flicking through page after page of photos of their five-year journey together.
The book had been put together by Kayliegh herself, and when Dennis reached the final page, he found a hand-written note: Will you be my real dad and adopt me?
As soon as he saw the note, an emotional Dennis struggled holding back tears of joy.
He and Kayleigh’s mom, Lacie Hafley, 34, from Etowah, Tennessee, have been together for five years, since Kayleigh was three.
Initially, Lacie said, Kayleigh couldn’t warm to the idea of having a new dad, as it had always been her and her mom since her biological father had left them.
But, over time, Kayleigh started referring to Dennis as her father, and the pair bonded over fishing trips and playing video games together.
Before Christmas, Lacie had to head to her local courthouse to discuss changing her last name when she and Dennis, who she is currently engaged to, get married.
At that point she started discussing adoption options, too, and when Dennis adopting Kayleigh was a viable possibility, Lacie ran the option past her daughter.
An excited Kayleigh said yes, and over the days that followed she worked on the photo album for a Christmas Day surprise.
Lacie said: “This is such a big deal for us, because, when I met Dennis, I couldn’t have any more children and he didn’t have any of his own biologically.
“We knew he would be so happy.
“I felt so much joy and happiness seeing them and him saying yes, because he didn’t have to take on that role.
“It makes me happy to be able to give her a real father and to be able to give him his own daughter to now be ours together.
“All he’s ever wanted was the opportunity to adopt her if I was ever given the chance.”