Texas diver inspires young audiences through collaborative children’s book

Emma Hutchinson, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the October 22 flipbook.

Standing at the edge of the platform, Jordan Windle prepares for his next dive. The graduate student scans the bleachers for his father, Jerry Windle, a face that’s been in the stands for the past 15 years. Down below, Jerry’s reassuring smile gives Jordan all the strength he needs.   

During his time at Texas, Jordan has been nothing short of impressive in the diving world. He’s a nine-time All-American athlete, a five-time Big 12 champion and Team USA diver at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Jerry’s smile has been there through it all.     

At just 18 months, Jordan was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage by Jerry, a single gay man looking to be not just a parent, but a source of light and positivity for his son. 

“His desire, as it has been from the very beginning of our relationship together, is to make people happy and to be joyful,” Jerry said. “He grew from this little tiny, very, very shy, little boy, into a person that celebrates life, celebrates humanity and believes in one human existence.”

However, the rainbow that so brightly radiated from Jordan’s affectionate nature, endured some rain. Jordan said he was heavily bullied throughout his elementary years.        

“I was bullied for my dad being gay, me being a different color and me not having a mom. It was because I was different,” Jordan said. “(Jerry) was always that rock that I needed, that support system.” 

As Jordan rallied against the world’s hate, he looked to be an inspiration to other children going through similar situations, but was unsure how to reach such a vast audience. 

The answer came from his own bedroom in the form of a bedtime story.

“When I was younger, I could only fall asleep to my dad’s singing or him telling me a bedtime story. My dad would always tell me this story about ‘The Prince of Cambodia’ because that’s where I was adopted from, and he’d base the story off me,” Jordan said. “Eventually, (at 10 years old), I got really bored of that, so I was like, ‘Dad, I want something different. I can’t sleep,’ and so he was like, ‘OK, fine, how about we go back and forth and make a story together.’”

Leaving Jordan’s room that night, Jerry immediately put pen to paper, and just like that, the two had written a children’s book titled, “An Orphan No More: The True Story of a Boy.” The tale followed a white rooster that cared for a brown duckling who was left behind by his mother, reflecting Jordan and Jerry’s life journey through the lens of two adorable barnyard animals. 

While the book was meant to teach children about acceptance and give them a sense of comfort in being different, it also paved the way for Jordan and Jerry to stay connected once their journeys took different paths. 

Having lost his parents at a young age, Jerry hoped to take his regret of not having a stronger physical connection with them and turn it into motivation to create a bond with Jordan that would last beyond his lifetime.   

“We published it to honestly give him something to give to his children and grandchildren,” Jerry said. “I hope he’ll look at the book and remember (our relationship) fondly even more when I’m gone, and the legacy that hopefully I’ve left behind.”

Jordan sees his success in diving as a way to repay his father for the immense amount of encouragement and support he’s provided inside and outside of athletics.      

“He sacrificed so much for me and just knowing that I had someone like that who was willing to go out of their way to just let me chase my dreams, it meant everything to me,” Jordan said. “Through school and through diving, I’ve really just been putting everything out there for him.”   

Now, Jerry can confidently say that he’s accomplished his goal as a parent, but said the role of being each other’s lifeline will continue for years to come.       

“He has left such an impression on me as a human being and to see who he has become, is probably the greatest gift of all,” Jerry said. “I mean, he is the reason for my existence, and I know that no matter what happens in my life, if people come and go, he is always the constant that will be there until the end.”