A Pittsford couple left the Rochester Airport on Tuesday, headed to South Korea to see their son compete in the Winter Olympics.
Bernie and Jamie Lillis are on their way to join up with Jon Lillis, the 23 year old man who is on the U.S. Aerial Ski Team. His father says his son has been dreaming of being an Olympian since he was a little boy, and starting to train at Bristol Mountain.
“I think anything you work hard for, and it actually happens, I’m only a small part of it, but it’s a great satisfaction to do that and I don’t even know what to expect when I get there, but I’m sure it will be beyond our wildest imagination,” Bernie Lillis told WXXI News.
Lillis says his family is honored by the kind of support they have received from the Greater Rochester area, everything from GoFundMe web pages set up to help with travel expenses, to words of encouragement from people in the community.
“It’s been kind of humbling with the financial support or even just …people reaching out with notes and messages and dropping off letters of good luck and prayers and all that.”
Jon Lillis is part of a competitive skiing family. His 19 year old brother Chris was on track to qualify for the Olympics as well before he suffered a knee injury.
The Lillis family has had to deal with tragedy as well, after another son, Michael, also a skier, died in his sleep last fall. At the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in South Korea, Jon Lillis wore a pendant containing some of Mikey’s ashes.
Bernie Lillis says his son Chris helped put things in perspective, on what this Olympics means for their family.
“It’s really kind of a closing for a lot of things, that have happened within our family, good and bad, and also a new beginning beyond that, and so, we’re really looking forward to celebrating in PyeongChang and the opportunities…to go beyond that.”
Bernie Lillis marvels at the fact that several very competitive skiers, including Jon, got their start training at Bristol Mountain.
“So that you can actually get six athletes on the U.S. Ski Team out of 23 or whatever there are and two Olympians from a little mountain outside of Rochester, New York with 1,200 vertical feet; we do a lot better than the Vails and Killingtons and Steamboats and everywhere else in the country.”
Lillis is hoping for success for his son in South Korea, and after that, he expects Jon to continue to set goals whether it be to set a course for the 2022 Olympics in China, or whatever else life brings.