The Searcy Family

“Omar has always been the happiest kid—I mean he has the gift of happiness. I can’t even begin to say how many joys he’s brought into our lives.” —Nick Searcy

Hollywood actor / director Nick Searcy and his wife, Leslie, have a connection to Methodist Home for Children that dates back to 2001, when they were living and working in Wilmington. They became foster parents to Omar when he was 15 months old, and they completed his adoption in June 2004 just before moving to California.

Omar is 15 now—and a typical teenager in a lot of ways. He’s learning to drive, going to high school dances and hanging out with buddies. He loves basketball and teases his father, an alumnus of UNC-Chapel Hill, about playing ball one day for the Duke Blue Devils. “I tell him, ‘I’ll be at every game, Omar,’ ” Nick says, laughing. “‘Right there in the stands, and people will say, There’s Omar’s dad and this week he’s wearing orange because Duke is playing Syracuse.‘ ”

Born in North Carolina to a family that struggled, Omar lives now in Burbank, Calif. He’s walked Hollywood red carpets with his father, traveled abroad, recently visiting Scotland and Japan, and had an acting role in Blood Done Sign My Name.

Omar was a toddler when he was placed into foster care in New Hanover County because his birth parents couldn’t care for him. His own father had been in foster care as a boy and spent some time in prison while Omar was in foster care. As Omar’s months with the Searcys turned into years, his birth mother was unable to meet the goals set out by social services to bring him home.

Ultimately, the state did not terminate their parental rights, but Omar’s mother and father yielded them voluntarily. They saw the love and opportunities Omar had with the Searcys, and they got a promise from Nick that Omar would remain a part of their lives, even after moving to California.

The Searcys have spent the last 12 years making good on that promise. Omar has a deep emotional connection with his birth family—especially his younger brother—and he comes back to Wilmington during summers to see them. They stay in contact by phone, text and social media, and they’ve become like extended family or in-laws, Nick says.

“Omar knows his history. That’s one of the blessings of knowing his birth family. Omar knows his whole story,” Nick says. “I think that his birth family has been a blessing to us. They have blessed us with their trust—they voluntarily trusted us with their son. And conversely, we committed to be part of their lives, and by Omar knowing all of that, knowing not only where he came from but where he is now, it’s helped him to find his place.”

Nick thinks about Omar’s father and the difficulties he faced aging out of foster care as a teenager. “He had a very tough life. … He’s doing a lot better now. But when I first met Omar’s birth father, I was struck by how young he was. He was probably 17 when he fathered Omar.”

And he wonders: How might that young father’s life have turned out differently, had he known stability as a child?

Nick Searcy has more than a hundred TV and film credits to his name, including Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen on Justified and Deke Slayton the Tom Hanks-produced miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Among other film credits, he has Fried Green Tomatoes, Days of Thunder, The Prince of Tides, The Fugitive, Cast Away, One Hour Photo, Runaway Jury and Moneyball, among others. His work in TV includes Thunder Alley, American Gothic, Murder One, Nash Bridges and Intelligence.