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Letters to Lily: Utah football player writes his own story
Utah football » A Utah football player’s relationship with his daughter is the one he writes.


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She was born on a Thursday in April, six weeks premature and spent her first 17 days in the intensive care unit.

They named her Lily Caprice Winchester. It was a quiet nod to Lily’s birth mother: Ataya Caprice Reeves.

At a glance

Nate Fakahafua

Team » Utah Utes

Position » Defensive end

Year » Sophomore

Hometown » Salt Lake City (Highland High School)

Height » 6-3

Weight » 250 pounds

Notable » The Tribune’s 2010 Class 4A MVP. … Played wide receiver and D-end in high school. … Won state championships in football and basketball as senior at Highland. … Has recorded 19 tackles in four games this season.

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Lori and John Winchester were married three years earlier. A year after their marriage, they began fertility treatments. Their first two attempts at adoption fell through.

Although Lori was 20 years older than Ataya, they became instant friends.

"Right when I saw you, I knew it was you," Lori remembered Ataya telling her.

Ataya encouraged John, Lori and her son Nicolas Olsen, from her first marriage, to come to the hospital for the birth. They were all there.

Except Nate.

Reeves characterized Fakahafua as young and scared. He ran away.

"It took me some time to actually get the courage and strength to actually go and meet her," Nate said. "But when I did it was definitely worth it."


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story continues below

Opening up

Nate’s relationship with his daughter began in his hands. He cloaked her in them and was careful to hold this thing he made so it did not drop and could not be taken away.

While Lori favored an open adoption, John was concerned there would be awkwardness or even resentment between the families involved. John watched Nate hold Lily, and take her for a short walk in The Gateway mall. His concerns disappeared.

Both he and Lori were struck by how tender Nate was with the 7-month-old Lily. Nate was struck by how much they seemed to love her. They loved her as much as he did.

They gathered another time at Sugar House Park, this time so Lily could meet her biological grandmother, who during Nate’s sophomore year at Highland moved to Utah so she could be near her sons.

Ana Fakahafua lives just south of Interstate 80 in a small brick house with turquoise steps. She wears a white flower in her black hair.

When Nate told her Ataya was pregnant, Ana’s response was that she wanted to adopt the baby herself. She had little money and already struggled to support herself and Nate’s sister, also named Ana. Nate knew she could not give Lily everything another family could.

When she met Lily, Ana cried.

"My son looked at my face and my tears," Ana said, "and he goes, ‘Mom, I understand how you feel. Same for me.’ "

A stronger bond

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