Will Bishop didn’t want to leave Haiti.
Even though he was effectively homeless and subsiding on nothing more than rice with lard for flavoring, the 8-year-old didn’t want to come to America.
“You know you are put up for adoption to have a better life. When the adopted parents came you know it is going to get better,” he said. “I didn’t really want to let go. When you are a child, you don’t want to let go of your mom. That was pretty difficult. I wanted my childhood back, but there was something better for me out there.”
Ten years after being adopted by Mike and Ronica of West Richland, Bishop is happy that he left his homeland. He is a successful athlete at Hanford High, making varsity every year in football, wrestling and soccer. He will add feature running back to his belt this fall, along with star linebacker.
Not bad for a kid who seemed unlikely to ever get off the streets of Haiti.
Bishop was one of 11 siblings struggling to survive in the island nation located southeast of Florida. His mom started putting her children up for adoption in an attempt to provide for them.
That’s where Mike and Ronica enter the story.
Mike is a manager at Target and Ronica a psychiatric nurse at Lourdes Health Network in Pasco. They had talked about wanting to adopt children even before they were married, so when they graduated college and wed, the pair started pursuing their dream.
They quickly found out that at 21 and 23 they were too young to adopt domestically and stumbled upon a website with information on adopting Haitians.
The first picture that captured their eye was of a young girl named Emily.
The Bishops entered the process to try and bring Emily home and added her younger brother Michael to the mix to try and keep the pair together.
“We got Emily home first, then Michael. The orphanage sent me a photo of the birth mom and the boy that was bigger,” Ronica said. “We always kept tabs on him, and it got to the point where the birth mom couldn’t care for him.”
Initially, the Bishops weren’t qualified to adopt Will because Mike isn’t 18 years older than him. But because the West Richland couple already had two of Will’s siblings, the Haitian government made an exception.
The Bishops adopted Will one month before his ninth birthday. At the time, he wasn’t too thrilled to be joining the family.
“He always thought he had enough food — even though it was lard-flavored water,” Ronica said. “To him, there was always something to eat. So he didn’t understand why he had to leave. Sometimes they would go from house to house. They didn’t have their own place and they were on the streets. So it was an adventure to him. He didn’t think it was that bad.”
The transition wasn’t easy for Will, especially because at the time the Bishops lived in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, which is not exactly known for its racial tolerance.
“We signed him up for soccer and he got home the day before the first game,” Ronica said. “He hadn’t been to any practices and there were a lot of parents whispering. He scored 10 goals in the first game, and after that everyone wanted him on their team.
“He is a natural leader and a natural athlete. People are drawn to him.”
After a year in Idaho, the family moved to the Tri-Cities where Will has showcased his athleticism by earning nine varsity letters his first three years of high school.“Sports has helped him,” Mike said. “The coaches have been great mentors, and it has kept him very busy and kept him focused.”
He made immediate impressions on his coaches and fellow athletes.
“Will is a nice, fun-loving, easy-going kid,” Hanford football coach Rob Oram said. “He was born in Haiti, and I think he brought a little island attitude with him. When he is challenged, he tends to perform at a very high level.”
And he is challenged often, be it in football or soccer. His size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) and speed quickly caught the eye of Mike Pardini, who just wrapped up his first year as head soccer coach at Hanford.
“He is definitely a guy that is difficult to come by,” Pardini said. “For him to be able to step right onto the pitch and not play year round like most of the guys do makes him pretty unique.”
Bishop’s favorite sport of the three is soccer, mainly because he is so naturally gifted at it and has played it for so long.
The sport also gave him the opportunity to go visit his homeland three years ago and see his mom again. He traveled to Haiti as part of a group who taught kids to play soccer.
He said the trip helped open his eyes to just how dangerous Haiti was, and it gave him a new appreciation for what he had in America.
Now that his senior year in high school is upon him, he is hoping to go to college and eventually earn some money to one day give his mom a better life — just like she gave him by putting him up for adoption.
“Right now some colleges are looking at me for different sports — soccer and football,” he said. “I have a lot of things up ahead.”