9-Year-Old Girl Asks Stepfather to Adopt Her Through Scavenger Hunt

"My daddy is the best dad... He ran to me, not away from me"

A young girl and her mother set up a special scavenger hunt to ask a very important question to the man that helped to change their lives.

Jacob Thrasher met Jerica when her daughter, Aeralyn, was just 2 years old. Since then, he has been a positive influence on the 9-year-old from Sullivan, Illinois, and this inspired Aeralyn to tell her mother she wanted to be officially adopted by her stepfather. So, the very next day, Jerica contacted a lawyer in secret and got a petition drawn out for the adoption. All that was left, of course, was for Jacob to agree.

When she showed Aeralyn the forms later that night, Jerica also told her that she had another plan up her sleeve. Without wanting to wait any longer, the mother-daughter duo put together a scavenger hunt for Jacob that spanned from their home to spots around town.

In footage from PEOPLE’s video series, The Upbeat, in association with Citi, Jerica is seen handing the first clue to Jacob, which he reads aloud.

“Families don’t have to match, you don’t have to like someone else to love them,” Jacob reads before turning over the letter. “Go to the place where we spend all of our time together.”

He then walks into another section of the house and finds another letter.

“Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but you’re miraculously my own,” it reads. “Never forget for a single minute you didn’t grow under my heart but in it.”

The footage shows Jacob going to a public storage location, then to the city’s courthouse, where Aeralyn is waiting for him by the steps to the entrance.

“Thank you for being the dad you didn’t have to be,” Jacob says while reading another letter. “Thank you.”

As Aeralyn reads the final message she wrote to him, she bursts into tears, and Jacob takes her into his arms.

“My daddy is the best dad,” Aeralyn says before handing the adoption papers to her father. “He ran to me, not away from me.”

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