MARCO ISLAND — Bill Morris is a big believer in family.
He’d better be, as he and his wife Pegilee have taken the concept beyond the von Trapp’s and up into “Cheaper by the Dozen” territory. After starting with two children the old-fashioned, biological way, the Marco Island couple is adopting their way to a total of nine offspring.
And the Morris family, including the family business, is working to extend the blessings of family beyond their own. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Law Firm of William G. Morris, P.A. on Marco Island, Morris and his associates are donating a four-day, three-night all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World for one deserving family, a gift they intend to continue annually.
“This area has been good for us for 30 years. We want to give back and are starting an annual tradition of giving to a local needy family during the holiday season,” said Bill Morris. “We hope this vacation will help a needy family forget their problems for at least the time they are at Disney.”
To choose the recipient of the trip, Morris and his firm are soliciting leads from the community.
“We don’t know what the need will be. It could be financial, medical or emotional someone who needs something to brighten their holidays,” said Bill. “We’re getting some nominations, but it’s open to anyone.” The vacation package includes lodging, meals, parking and unlimited access to Disney parks.
“It’s a four-day ‘Park-hopper’ pass,” said Bill and Pegi’s daughter Samantha Morris. The 27-year-old is a member of both the home family and the business family, working as an associate in the law firm. “We love Disney. Dad gave this to us last year, and we had a blast.”
amantha stood in the kitchen at her folks’ waterfront Marco house Wednesday evening, as Bill worked to get dinner into a raft of kids before Emilee, 8, headed off to her gymnastics class. Samantha’s son Julian played with Bill and Pegi’s son Cole. Uncle and nephew are both six.
The children in the family room and kitchen bounced on and off the couch, engaged in impromptu play with each other, and swarmed around avisitor asking questions. In addition to Samantha and Julian, just visiting, the cast of characters included Zeke, 11, Emilee, 8, Cole, 6, Tebow, 4, and Oliver, 2, plus Bill and Pegi and another infant they are fostering while in the process of adopting. The couple also has a grown son, Grady, 31, and another daughter, Maggie, 11, who is at a boarding school near New Port Richie.
There is no doubt, looking around the home, that family takes precedence over immaculate interior dÈcor in the Morris family. High chairs, a stroller, game equipment, toys and children are everywhere. In the kitchen, a dad with a fulltime, high-pressure day job showed off his skills as a short-order cook.
Scheduling can get tough, said Pegi, who owns Sunshine Title, and also works as a real estate paralegal in the law office, between gymnastics, cheerleading practice, karate, soccer, basketball and baseball schedules for the various kids.
“I only coach one soccer team at a time,” said Bill, “usually the younger kids.”
Talking to man raising a family of nine children, it seems logical to ask, “why?” Bill Morris doesn’t have a pat answer.
“They just keep tasking us to take them,” he said of the child welfare agencies who have been the source of most of the kids. “We say yes.” And answering a question not asked at that moment, but which he said he has heard repeatedly over the years in various forms, Morris said he has the same feeling for all his children.
“We love them. They’re our family. These are just the same as our birth children,” he said. “Our kids know they’re adopted, and they know they’re loved.”
Hanging out with at the family home, that love is easy to see, even as the kids interact as kids do, not with perfect harmony but always with acceptance and love. And then dad calls “Team Morris,” and the family all gathers around, putting their hands into the circle like a football team. Everyone calls out “Teeeeaaamm Morris!” and the hands go high in the air as high as the varying sizes of the team will allow.
“It’s great,” Samantha Morris, who was the younger child at 16 when her parents began adopting, said of her ever-growing family. “This makes family holidays a lot of fun.”
“Bill has a very active law firm, and Pegi has a very active title company, so it is not as though they have lots of free time,” said their friend Keith Dameron. “Honestly, Barbara and I believe they are saints.”
To nominate a family to receive the Disney World vacation, visit the law firm at 247 North Collier Blvd., call 239-642-6020, or go to their website, www.wgmorrislaw.com.