Missouri Valley / Nebraska

Elkhorn coach finds his roots in Colombia thanks to social media

Andrea Gallagher | September 08, 2023


Growing up in Auburn, Jon Holtz grew up on the local tennis courts because his dad ran the local city rec tennis program. For the past 14 years, he’s been head coach for the girls and boys tennis teams at Elkhorn HIgh School, in addition to teaching fourth grade. 

 

“I started playing tennis at about five years old,” he recalled. “I played in the summer city rec program that my dad ran. I started instructing younger players and continued on with the city rec program until I left for college. I went on to Wayne State and played intramural tennis all through college.”

 

Ever since he was 10-years old, Holtz had found out he was adopted and wondered about his birth parents who were from Colombia. Since it was a closed adoption, he ran into a lot of walls and eventually gave up the search. Around four years ago when he was at his parents house, he was looking at his birth certificate and noticed his birth mother’s name. He decided to look her up on Facebook, and sure enough, those walls started to come down. He found a woman who seemed to be the right age who resembled him. He and his father wrote her a message.

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“We concocted a facebook message which pretty much said could you be my mother? I also made sure to let her know if she does not need to respond if she doesn't want to,” he said. “The next Tuesday when I was teaching in my classroom she responded. It was a very long message in Spanish so I had to translate it. I was a bit nervous so I waited until I got home. Her message pretty much said.... I can't believe you found me.”

 

Since he had a lot of questions, they chatted via messenger for about a month. That evolved into video chatting, which was difficult because of the language barrier. He and his family then planned a trip to Columbia in 2020, but because of COVID, it didn’t happen until the summer of 2022. He and his wife and adoptive parents made the trip out to his birthplace.

“It was so amazing meeting them for the first time. It was pretty surreal to say I was finally meeting my mother after 39 years,” he said. “It just felt right being with them and spending time together. It was an emotional trip of course. There were many people to meet and relatives to be introduced to. One day she took us to the small village that she grew up in and that was so very eye-opening.”

 

Holtz hopes to bring his mother and other relatives to Nebraska to visit. He also wants to travel back to Bogota with his children, so they can meet their family and experience the culture. He is thankful he took the chance to find his birth mother and the connections he made. 

 

“It honestly helps give me some closure,” he explained. “It gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of my culture and life, and finally who I really am. It provided me with answers to many questions I have had throughout my life about my adoption and birth parents.”

 

Holtz said he is thankful for the entire experience, and now has Elkhorn Antler tennis fans in South America.

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