When you hear about someone celebrating their first Father's Day, you probably picture a dad and his brand new baby. But because of DNA testing, people are finding their biological fathers or discovering they have children much later in life.
A representative for 23andMe told Parents.com they "receive dozens of stories a week from customers who have connected with biological family members through 23andMe, and many of them find their birth fathers or children."
These connections can only happen when the parties involved proactively opt-in to participate in 23andMe's DNA Relatives feature. If you want to take the DNA test without the possibility of finding any long-lost relatives, you can simply not participate in DNA Relatives.
These individuals chose to connect, though, and what's transpired is pretty incredible. Here are the heartwarming stories of five different families who will be celebrating their first Father's Day this year thanks to DNA testing.
"Every day feels like Father's Day"
Tony Thune always thought having kids was just not in his life's plan. But in February 2019, he was contacted by his biological son, Steven, on 23andMe. His initial reaction was "disbelief and shock."
"For my whole adult life, when anyone asked if I had kids, my reply had been, 'No, I don't,'" said Tony, who had a brief relationship with Steven's mother in 1983 in Oklahoma while he was in the military. It was nearly impossible for Tony and Steven's mother to reach each other after they parted ways—he was on a base with limited access to communication and they didn't have each other's contact information. Steven's mother later returned to Arizona to be close to family and raise their son.
Discovering he had a grown son was a lot to process, but Tony said "there was never any doubt as to whether or not I was going to meet Steven." When they did meet for the first time a month later, they instantly connected. "We ended up shutting down the restaurant because we stayed so long talking," said Tony. "What felt like 20 minutes was actually over three hours."
Since then, Tony and his wife have been to Arizona multiple times to visit Steven. The father-son relationship has picked up quickly, too. As Tony said, "We talk every day, multiple times a day."
As a Father's Day gift, Tony's wife arranged for Steven to fly out to their home in Oregon. "So, we will be celebrating together," he said. "Every day feels like Father's Day for me right now!"
The first call was "nerve-wracking"
Raymond Munoz took 23andMe hoping to find his biological father. When he first got his results, he was disappointed that his dad wasn't listed under the DNA Relatives finder tool. Shortly after, though, Raymond received a message from a cousin saying that he looked like her uncle, who had been looking for his son. The cousin connected the two, who then confirmed they were, indeed, father and son.
Raymond's first phone call with his father was "nerve-wracking," he admitted. He had some apprehension about "speaking with a stranger as if he was supposed to be my father after nearly 49 years of my life." But when the two men met face-to-face for the first time, Raymond said there "was no awkwardness at all."
"There were some tears, of course," said Raymond. "I wouldn't want it any other way." The two don't currently have any plans to celebrate Father's Day together, but Raymond said he "would love to" if the logistics work out.
"I'm very excited to meet in person"
Auric Novac grew up knowing he was donor conceived, so he "wasn't too shocked [to learn] that I had siblings out there somewhere." Still, he was "pretty surprised" when one of those half-siblings reached out to him on 23andMe in 2019. He then discovered he was one of 10 half-siblings who'd connected through the DNA Relatives finder tool on the site.
Now Auric, his nine half-siblings, and their biological father (he wishes to remain anonymous) have made plans to meet for the first time. They've rented a cabin in Walker, Minnesota for a weekend in June, and Auric is "very excited to meet everyone in person."
"My most prominent feeling is curiosity—this trip will be like a real-time study of nature vs. nurture," he said. "Already, through our [group] chat alone, I can tell we all have a fair amount in common."
He said this Father's Day will be different. "I'll have put a face to the man that gave my mother the ability to have a healthy son while still maintaining her independence," he said. But Auric said it "won't be different in that I will still be celebrating the day with my grandfather who served as my father-figure my whole life. While I am grateful for my biological father's generosity and open-mindedness, it will never change who raised me."
"I've learned so much about the man he was"
Carra Powell was adopted when she was 6 weeks old, and she was always curious about her biological family. Her adoptive parents were extremely supportive of her journey, and 20 years ago, Carra found her birth mother. She didn't have as much luck finding her father, until earlier this year when she found a half-sibling on her paternal side through 23andMe.
Since then, Carra has discovered she has 20 siblings. She's enjoyed connecting with them and learning more from them about their father, who sadly passed away in the late 1990s. Carra wasn't able to meet her father, but she said she now has "a really clear picture of who he was" thanks to her siblings.
"I've learned so much about the man he was, which has been really special," she said. "He was tall and handsome with a keen sense for business. He made things happen. I am a go-getter like him."
Aside from various similarities in personality, Carra has learned she also looks very much like her biological father. "I am very tall like him and have a similar skin tone," she said. "Growing up, being the only black person in my family, I always longed to know who I looked like. Now I know, and that has been one of the most fun parts of this whole experience."
This Father's Day, Carra said she "will celebrate two incredible men: The father who biologically created my life and the father who created the opportunities and life I have been blessed to live for 41 years."
"We have a lot in common so it has been a blessing"
Sarah McGill always knew she was adopted, but she was really inspired to look for her birth family after her sister (who was also adopted) was able to find hers. Upon her sister's recommendation, Sarah took 23andMe and immediately matched with a man listed as her father. They connected instantly and have already met up three times this year.
"My dad passed 10 years ago, so you can say I've missed having that fatherly figure in my life," said Sarah. "My biological dad, Dan, and I have a lot in common so it has been a blessing over the past four months. We talk daily!"
Sarah and Dan don't live close, so they "haven't figured out the logistics or if we will be together on Father's Day," she said, "but we will celebrate somehow."