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PLAINFIELD, Ill. — While many of her counterparts asked for cars, trips or money for their high school graduation gifts, one Illinois teenager surprised her mother’s boyfriend with a unique request: A request to become his legal daughter.
Lauren Hernandez has known Joe Iosco nearly her entire life — her mother began dating him when she was just 1, ABC News reported. While her biological father floated in and out of the picture, Iosco was a constant fixture.
“I was only with my biological father every other weekend, but I was with Joe almost every day,” Hernandez told ABC. “He did things for me and he took me places.”
Even though they don’t share blood, Hernandez has shared most of her ups and downs with Iosco. He encouraged her from the bleachers as she cheered at her high school games, he infused magic into her holidays and he provided a shoulder on which to cry when Hernandez felt isolated from her biological father, Today reported.
“He’s the best dad I could ever ask for,” she said. “I always considered Joe as a father.”
The pair grew so close over the years that Iosco attempted to officially adopt Hernandez multiple times.
“As the years went by, I not only fell in love with Sally, but I fell in love with Lauren as well,” Iosco told ABC.
Her biological father, however, wouldn’t agree to it and Iosco was forced to be content with being a surrogate father figure instead — a role he never failed to embrace.
“When your kids are born, you automatically love them,” Sally Hernandez, Lauren’s mother, told CBS. “He chose to do for her what he does for his biological daughters.”
As she neared her 18th birthday, Hernandez went in search of a way to legally make Iosco the father she’d always considered him to be. She discovered that she no longer needed her biological father’s permission once she became a legal adult, and hatched a plan to surprise Iosco with adoption papers at her high school graduation party, according to Today.
Lauren Hernandez handed a wrapped box to Joe Iosco, who has been a father figure to her since she was a baby.... https://t.co/ObzLj3g8i3— 93.7 KCOUNTRY (@937_kcountry) August 16, 2016
The graduate invited the family’s closest friends to the party, where she handed Iosco a box to open. He seemed confused at first, but smiled as he pulled out a frame with a photo of the two of them and a poem Hernandez had written for him. Iosco dug deeper into the box and fell to the ground in tears when he pulled out adoption papers.
A video of the emotional exchange has garnered more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.
“It means everything to me,” Iosco told Today. “To have her present me with the papers was amazing, because a lot of step parents don’t get along with their step kids … she let me know she cares for me as much as I care for her.”
Hernandez said that by adopting her, Iosco will be giving her the graduation gift of her dreams.
“I never doubted that he was my dad,” she told CBS. “The fact that it’s going to be official makes me happy.”