Parents Travel from Belgium to University of Findlay to Surprise Son
Orry Willems had a passion for the hammer throw track and field event, and a dream of going to America. His dream and passion came together when he decided to attend University of Findlay, study computer science, and throw for the track and field team. More than 4,000 miles separates Orry from his mom and dad in Belgium. Late last week, that distance was shortened from miles to feet, as his mom and dad surprised him on campus.
Orry hasn’t seen his parents since August and didn’t plan to see them until after the school year was over. His parents had a different idea, arriving on campus at the end of February, with plans to surprise Orry with a week-long visit. “We always said we would come see him at graduation, but after his 21st birthday in February, his mother changed her mind,” said Orry’s dad Filip. “I couldn’t wait till next year. I wanted to see him,” exclaimed Orry’s mom Ilse.
Filip and Ilse supported their son’s dream to go to the United States, but admitted that it was hard at first. “In the beginning I said no,” said Ilse. “However, after he was offered the opportunity to throw and further his education, I couldn’t take that experience away from him.”
While Orry has been away from home, he hasn’t been alone, finding generous families who welcomed him into their homes. “They took me in, and I got to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with them. I am very lucky,” said Orry. Filip and Ilse took the time to meet the families during their visit to the United States, expressing their gratitude for providing Orry with a home away from home. Orry and his parents also made a trip to meet his girlfriend’s family near Columbus, and took a family trip to Hocking Hills for a mini vacation.
The trip to the University of Findlay was a first for Filip and Ilse, and their first time in the United States. “We’ve seen the picture of everything on Facebook and Instagram, but to see it in person is a completely different experience,” Filip said. Ilse and Filip have taken the time to tour campus, watch their son throw, and even experienced hibachi at Findlay’s Tokyo Steakhouse.
When Orry’s parents fly back home, they will be faced with a similar situation to which Orry put them in just a few years ago. Their youngest son will turn 16 this year, and he too has dreams of going to college in the United States and throwing for a track and field team. Orry’s success in the classroom and at track and field events is inspiring for his younger brother. For Filip and Ilse, they still have a few years until their youngest goes to college, but after seeing the happiness University of Findlay has brought to Orry, they feel a little less stressed.
Orry will conclude his junior year at the end of this semester, and has plans to get his master’s degree after graduation. When asked if he has plans to move back home or stay in America, he said he hopes to move in with his girlfriend here in the states. As for mom and dad, they would like to come back to the United States more often and enjoy a few holidays with their son.