Katelyn Miller, a 21-year-old from Salina, Kansas, penned a touching thank you letter to her stepdad Lance Jeske, which was shared on the Love What Matters Facebook page on Monday.
In the post, Katelyn thanks Lance, who has three other kids from a previous marriage, for always treating her and her brother like his own kids since he first came into their lives nearly 13 years ago.
“You are not my biological father, I do not carry your last name (yet) and I do not look like you in the slightest,” she wrote. “Any man can make a child, and stick his name on the birth certificate. It takes a real man like you to step up and care for a child who is not his own.”
She also commended Lance for being an “amazing role model” to both her and her brother.
“You’ve been an amazing role model for us. I know I’ve rebelled in the past with my choice of boyfriends, but you have taught me what a real man is,” she wrote. “I know that a real man won’t cheat on me, won’t choose drugs or alcohol over me, won’t verbally or physically abuse me, and will never make me feel like I’m not good enough. I’ve had my heart broken too many times, and you’re always there to put it back together. You make me feel like I’m worth it.”
Katelyn told HuffPost that over the years, she’s learned what a strong, healthy relationship looks like by witnessing the marriage of Lance and her mother.
“He’s taught me so much,” she said. “He’s treated my mother the way she deserves. By watching their relationship grow and grow over the years, I hope one day to find someone who will love and support me the way he does for my mother.”
In the heartfelt post, which has amassed thousands of likes and shares, Katelyn also expressed her gratitude to Lance for always showing up and being her biggest cheerleader ― at basketball games, art shows, prom and graduation ― and supporting her as she figures out her career path.
“You’ve never pushed me to be someone I’m not. Even when I’ve changed my mind a million times of what I want to do, you still support whatever decision I make,” she wrote. “When I make a mistake, you help me fix it. And somehow you survived my teenage years, so that tells more about your patience than anything.”
She continued: “You are truly an incredible human being, and when people ask me who my dad is, I’m proud to say your name.”
On Father’s Day this year, Katelyn surprised Lance with the news that she wants to change her last name to Jeske.
“He was sitting at the table at my grandma’s, surrounded by the family. He read aloud the first few words of the petition for name change and looked at me with tears in his eyes saying, ‘Are you for real?’” she told HuffPost. “He was so shocked and it was such a happy moment for the whole family who all have accepted me as their own.”