This story from the Gilliard family highlights what ORO is all about… family, friends, and bringing people together! We hope you enjoy this and thank you to Randy for sharing this with us!
In 1975, my ORO adventures began. I was just three years old when my parents and I pulled into ORO in our motorhome. As I looked out the window I was scared. Why on earth were we staying in a graveyard? Back then, every lot had white stone tables and benches, and as a small child it looked as though they were tombstones, not tables and benches. My young mind had gotten the best of me.
We continued to frequent the park and my parents bought a lot near the little pool. It wasn’t until years later that they purchased a park model. Over the years, my family enjoyed many of the amenities the park had to offer. I frequented the ice cream truck and the pizza truck that drove around the park. We spent hours on canopy bikes and the paddle boats that we rented from the little building that sits on the golf course grounds.
My parents spent their winters in Florida. In 1989, I drove down to Florida with some friends. My mother’s rules were if she cooked for all of us, we did the dishes. As we were finishing up the daily dishes, we glanced out the window and saw some young ladies walking down the road. Eager to hang out with others our age, we yelled out and asked if they would like to meet us at the pool. They obliged and within the hour we were all hanging out at the small pool together. Over the years, those young ladies and us young men would talk via snail mail. Every year, all of us friends would travel down to Florida to hang out together. The girls were from Chicago and us from Ontario, Canada. We had all become great life-long friends. We would stay with my parents, and the girls would stay with one of the girl’s grandparents.
In 1997, one of the girls I had met in 1989 became my wife. She moved from the big city of Chicago to our farm in rural Ontario. Who would have thought that a chance meeting in the park would lead to a marriage. It was definitely meant to be. We have been married 24 years now.
In 2002 my dad was diagnosed with ALS. His winters spent in Florida came to an end. My wife’s grandmother also had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The people in the park were wonderful to both of them. We were blessed to have the support from fellow Canadian/ORO friends back at home and Kim’s grandmother was supported by her parents, who bought a place in ORO, as well as all the neighbors. Kim’s two aunts and uncles also bought places and ORO continued to be everyone’s happy place.
In 2013, my wife and I purchased our own unit in the park. There was no question when buying a vacation home where we wanted to be. We had such wonderful memories. It was just a single wide to start with, but over the years we have added a Florida room, a patio, bricked walkway, a front awning, and a forever roof. We are proud of our home away from home. We have also gained some amazing friends that we feel are not just friends but family. My brother even bought a place two doors down from us. We are now a 4th generation family spending time at the ORO.
May all of your lives be as blessed with love, laughter, and happily ever after in our little park in Florida.