Vandalia athlete’s birth mom to join adoptive parents on senior night: ‘She’s part of my family, too’

Butler High School senior Olivia Follick smiles during a recent match. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Butler High School senior Olivia Follick smiles during a recent match. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

VANDALIA – Olivia Follick relaxed in a restaurant booth with her parents six months ago and said as nonchalantly as possible: “Hey, I want to meet Jennifer.”

The statement was a big one. Jennifer is Olivia’s birth mother. Chad and Amy Follick, however, would never dream of saying no. Soon after that night, Olivia and Jennifer had a tearful and joyful reunion.

The Follicks met Jennifer 18 years ago, adopted Olivia as a baby and never kept the fact from her. They sent pictures of Olivia to Jennifer and to Olivia’s birth father for years. Later, Jennifer was also able to keep up with Olivia’s accomplishments on social media.

“We’re so grateful for her, for what she did for us,” Amy said. “What more of a gift can you give someone than the gift of life.”

In eighth grade, Olivia needed information for a school project she could only get from Jennifer. That’s when letter-writing, texting and Snapchat became ways for them to communicate. But they never met.

Why now?

“‘I think it would be nice to know her because I have all these big events coming up, graduation, graduation parties, senior nights for volleyball and basketball,” Olivia told her parents. “And I want her to be a part of that as much as my parents because she’s part of my family, too.”

The first big night of Olivia’s senior year at Vandalia Butler High School is Senior Night for volleyball on Tuesday. The Follicks and Jennifer will escort Olivia together. “I love her,” Olivia said. “As much as I love my parents, I love her.”

“I was a basket full of emotions when she asked,” said Jennifer, who lives in the area. “I’m just very happy … just so much love that she wants to include me and that her mother and father are perfectly fine with it.”

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Olivia Follick's parents, Chad (left) and Amy Follick (center) watch their daughter during a recent match. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Olivia Follick's parents, Chad (left) and Amy Follick (center) watch their daughter during a recent match. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Olivia Follick's parents, Chad (left) and Amy Follick (center) watch their daughter during a recent match. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

‘A miracle to us’

The Follicks were high school sweethearts who got married at 21. About three years later, it was time to start a family. But after seven years, two miscarriages and the final heartache – twin daughters who didn’t make it past 21 weeks – the Follicks were in mourning.

Adoption and in vitro fertilization were the only options. In vitro was expensive with no guarantees. Adoption could take years. But first, Amy needed a year to heal.

“He was ready,” Amy said. “He was seeing what it was doing to me physically, emotionally, and so he was ready to move forward with adoption before I was there.”

The Follicks signed up with an adoption agency and reference letters were being sent when Amy’s aunt called with a question. She worked with Jennifer’s brother and knew that Jennifer was considering choosing adoption. She was 17 and she and her boyfriend realized they had no way to provide for and take care of a baby. Would they like to meet her?

The Follicks said yes, and Amy talked with Jennifer on the phone for an hour. Jennifer and her mom and grandmother agreed to meet the Follicks at a restaurant. The boyfriend came, too.

“They were just the nicest young couple and high school sweethearts, but neither one of them were prepared to be parents at that age,” Amy said. “Before we left the restaurant, they told us they wanted us to adopt their baby.”

Olivia was born six weeks later, and the Follicks were put into a hospital room as if they were the biological parents. “And it’s been perfect ever since,” Amy said.

“I can’t imagine a life without her,” said Chad, Vandalia’s fire chief. “She filled a huge void in our lives. She’s a miracle to us.”

Olivia embraces her adoption and talks about it openly. She has been writing about it for school assignments since elementary. She wrote about it on her application essay to Wittenberg University.

“It’s the biggest part of who I am,” Olivia said. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t know everybody that I know and be here right now.”

The Follicks never considered not telling Olivia she was adopted. She is grateful for how her parents have handled the truth and how they have been supportive of her getting to know Jennifer.

“There’s no words to describe how well they’ve handled this whole thing,” Olivia said. “They fixed this whole thing. I don’t want to say fixed because it’s definitely not broken. It wasn’t broken in the first place. But they brought everything together.”

The first meeting

The Follicks and Jennifer planned the meeting at the same restaurant as 17 years before. The Follicks arrived first and waited.

“My heart dropped as soon as I saw her,” Olivia said. “I had no words, and we were all crying. And Dad doesn’t cry, but he was crying. He says he didn’t, but he did.

“The first time we hugged it was like this is my mom, my actual mom. And my mom was right there. It was just both my worlds colliding together. It was great.”

Another reason Olivia wanted to meet Jennifer was to hear her side of the story. They talked for two hours that night.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t want her or I didn’t love her – that wasn’t the case at all,” Jennifer said. “I’ve never met anybody who was so honored to be adopted or was so proud of it. I’m very honored that they allow me to be in her life, and now she wants me to be a part of it. She seems to be understanding, and I owe all that to her mother and father. She’s had a great life and more than what I could’ve given her.”

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The tattoo of Butler High School senior volleyball player Olivia Follick symbolizes the date she was adopted by Chad and Amy Follick. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

The tattoo of Butler High School senior volleyball player Olivia Follick symbolizes the date she was adopted by Chad and Amy Follick. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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The tattoo of Butler High School senior volleyball player Olivia Follick symbolizes the date she was adopted by Chad and Amy Follick. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Getting to know each other

This summer Olivia decided that tattoos of the adoption symbol were a must. So she, her mom and Jennifer spent the day getting the triangle and heart symbol inked onto their right wrist. The points on the triangle represent the child and each family. The heart binds them together.

Olivia had the date of 4-23-04 added to her tattoo as a reminder of the court date that made her officially Chad and Amy’s daughter. Jennifer had Olivia’s birth date of 9-6-03 added to hers.

“It was the best experience of my life seeing both sides of my family together with me -- the connection,” Olivia said. “I cried the whole time – even getting the tattoo because that hurt, too.”

The first time Jennifer attended one of Olivia’s volleyball games this season, Olivia got to meet her half-brother. Her birth father, who she has yet to meet, has a family, and Jennifer now has a baby to raise. Hunter is almost 16 months old.

“He’s adorable,” Olivia said. “To see him it makes me so happy because I know she’s happy too and she finally has somebody there with her all the time.”

After the game, Olivia and Hunter played together on the gym floor.

“His smile just lit up when he saw her like he kinda knew,” Jennifer said. “It was just a really pretty moment.”

Olivia’s four years on the Aviators varsity volleyball team will end soon. She is her team’s best player, a two-time all-Miami Valley League selection and will continue playing at Wittenberg so all her parents – and little Hunter – can watch her play.

Before college, however, the Follicks, their “miracle” and the mother who made it possible have more senior milestones to celebrate together.

“It really is a beautiful story because I never thought in a million years …,” Jennifer said as she fought back tears, “… I’ve always wanted it to turn out this way, but I never knew that it would.”

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