My College:
Family Life

A Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

Kelsey Gast

Everyone has a hero.

Maybe it’s a character in a novel, a historical figure, a celebrity, an entrepreneur. Sure, I have plenty of role models, but my true hero is my dad. From the beginning, in my best moments and my worst moments, he has been there guiding and protecting me.

It’s truly hard to sum up my feelings on a day like this. How can I thank my dad enough for his sacrifice, patience and support? Appreciation for my father goes back a long time... 

Dear Dad,

Growing up, you told me that I could do anything I put my mind to. During my moments of self-doubt, you helped me see that my qualities were not weaknesses, but strengths. You told me I was special, worthy and taught me to always put my best foot forward.

You always expressed your pride and acceptance of me — things a kid sometimes needs to hear when they grow up facing so much pressure from peers or societal expectations — and I am so thankful for those words. But what's more important is that you didn’t just tell me, you showed me. Your actions meant everything in the world and that’s why you’re my hero. 

When I was a toddler, our small town in North Carolina did not have a preschool, so you created Triangle Academy Preschool. You provided me with the resources in order to develop and grow. Actions like these made me care about my education as I grew up. I wanted to create opportunities for myself, even when they seemed far fetched.

I remember times when you metaphorically told me to embrace the storm. Then you, quite literally, led the charge to go play in the rain. I always followed in pursuit, at least until I was big enough to outrun you!

You showed up to all my sporting events — I was the smallest girl on the field and you were the loudest and proudest dad on the sidelines. When I needed to practice, you mowed the lawn, carving out a mini soccer field, got me a goal and we would play. In that same backyard, you taught me how to ride a bike. When I fell, you helped me get back up to try again.

You told me that as a girl I can do anything a boy does. You taught me to play baseball — we practiced together and you signed me up for an all-boys league. It was a blast.

When you wanted to spend time with me, you stole me away and made it happen. Together we joined a father-daughter camp and it was the best experience a little girl could ask for. Zip lines, bonfires, family-friendly competitions, archery, shark tooth hunting...could it get any better?

As a teen, I watched in awe as you set your own personal goals and achieved them. Sometimes you hit a bump in the road, but you kept pushing forward. Your entire life you dreamed of hiking the John Muir Trail. On your first attempt, you were injured and had to return home, but you didn't let that stop you. Eventually you healed, trained and then got back on the mountain to accomplish your goal. I witnessed that and wanted to be like you. 

You didn’t just tell me to seek out adventure, you brought me along, and some of your passions became mine. I, too, wanted to hike the John Muir Trail. So when I was old enough, you took me back to the place you loved — it was a bonding experience I'll never forget. It awakened me to how much you'd had to push yourself mentally and physically to conquer the breathtaking but relentless Sierra Nevada terrain. I was humbled and proud to be the daughter of a dad who never gave up and invested his time in the things he loved.

In high school you attended every choir and dance performance and when they banned video cameras in the audience, you volunteered to videotape the show for the school (but really just for me). Afterwards, you would run up to me with flowers and a beaming proud face.

When prom rolled around, you were there to take pictures and send me away with my date. Of course, before letting us leave, you gave him a firm talking to about treating me like a princess and returning me home safely.

Throughout college, you supported me every step of the way. You were there for move-in day, Parent and Family Weekend, football games and graduation. Your presence meant the world to me, because you truly were one of my biggest inspirations and I couldn't have done it without you.

After college, I felt the urge to move to Colorado, a place too far away from home. Deep down you didn't want me to leave, but you encouraged me to go and believed in me because you are the best dad. I miss you so much. I wish I was there today to celebrate how wonderful you've been to me.

On Father’s Day, when I reflect back, my mind swirls with memories of large and simple moments and these treasures that flash before my eyes fill my heart with utter gratitude. How can I put all of my appreciation in one letter or sum it up in words? Simply put, you have given me a happy life, Dad, and I love you. You are my hero and I can’t thank you enough.

Love, Your Little-Big Girl

To all the devoted fathers out there, thank you for your love, patience and sacrifice. It's not always an easy road, but eventually us kids grow up and realize how important your job was to our development and character. Thanks for being our heroes. Happy Father's Day!

Kelsey Gast attended Appalachian State University, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communication, Advertising in 2017. Kelsey is the Content Marketing Specialist at LogRhythm based in Boulder, Colorado, and before that spent two years at CollegiateParent. Outside of work, she is fueled by spontaneous adventures, hiking, traveling — and nothing beats spending quality time with her family and friends!
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