William "Vinnie" Vinzetta is the personable sports director at KMSB Channel 11. He's a lighthearted quasi-hipster whose jovial nature emanates through during his broadcasts.
Vinzetta was raised by a loving, supportive family, but Vinzetta still had a desire not uncommon among adopted children: He wanted to track down his birth family.
For Vinzetta, the search took nearly two decades. It began in earnest in 1992, during his college days. Vinzetta and a fraternity brother in the same situation decided to petition a judge in Oklahoma to access their adoption records. Vinzetta's friend had little trouble, but Vinzetta, at first, was not so lucky.
"We were in the judge's chambers, and mine was declined," said Vinzetta. "I was standing in the doorway of the judge's office, and he said it had been declined and was something to maybe look into down the road. Whatever came over me at the moment, I just let out some heartfelt, tearful emotions, and expressed to him that I (knew I was) the baby of the family, and I had tons of people out there (who were part of) my lineage, and every man has a right to know his birthright. It was an extraordinary moment for me in 1992: He ended up changing his mind and granted the request and ordered the birth records unsealed. It was a powerful moment for me."
It was also the beginning of a long, arduous trek.
"Over the next few years, I researched and made phone calls to where my family had lived and where I was conceived, and then things happened—like life," Vinzetta said. "You leave college and start your career, and you ... put it on the backburner, because you're into your life, and things are happening. But it's always on your mind."
Once he became somewhat established as a sports reporter in Lubbock, Texas, Vinzetta hired a private investigator to revisit the subject. Unfortunately, the combination of hefty student loans and a crappy media-industry income put the process on hold again.
"The time came, and I wasn't able to pay the fee I was facing, but (the private investigator) did tell me a couple of important things, and said whenever the day came, it was going to be a happy ending," Vinzetta said. "He said, 'A lot of these don't have happy endings, but yours will.'"
Vinzetta's big break occurred thanks to social networking. Armed with key dates and names, Vinzetta posted what he knew on Facebook, and asked for help. His adopted cousin compiled the information through ancestry.com, and the pieces fell into place.
He discovered his birth mother passed away in 2002, but he was able to successfully track down two of his older blood sisters.
"This is where it got extremely real. I was feeling a lot of emotion," Vinzetta said. "What do I do? I've been dreaming about this for 20 years. I sent out a Facebook request after looking up the names of two of my sisters, and there they were—the names matched and the birthdates matched from ancestry.com. I was really getting emotional at this point, typed in a few words, sent the request and just started pacing around my place. No more than 30 minutes later, I had friend requests from both of them, and a message. It read essentially, 'Oh my God, baby brother, it's you. I'm in tears. I'm crying. I don't know what to say.' And I burst into tears.
"I immediately responded to both of them. I was in a place I had never been in my life. It was unbelievable. It was like 37 years of not knowing had jumped off my shoulders at that moment. I was thinking about this for years, and here it was. When I got that message, I was blown away. They were all overjoyed. It was unbelievable. My birthright had come to me."
Vinzetta has no contact with his biological father (who is not the father of his siblings), and he is dealing with the fact that he was never able to meet his biological mother. But he better understands the circumstances behind the decisions that were made.
"My birth family had some very difficult financial times that put a burden on all of them," Vinzetta said. "My mother went through four marriages and had a difficult time raising the children. When she found out she was pregnant with me at 40 years old, she was on welfare with her family. Her caseworker was my (adopted) grandmother. She told my ... adopted grandmother, 'I'm 40 years old and in no position to do this.' My grandmother, in turn, said, 'Well, I have a daughter and son-in-law who can't conceive. They'd like to have a child.' The deal was set up. I was born June 29, 1973. I was with the Vinzettas on July 5.
"Obviously, I'm dealing with and facing the emotions of some guilt, because I started the search 20 years ago, and (my biological mother) died in 2002. I'll never say hi to my mom or touch my mom or tell her that I love her. I know there was good in her. She had a child at 40, and even though she knew she couldn't care for me, she chose not to abort me and give me life. For that, I'm forever grateful."
For Vinzetta, getting acquainted is the next step, not the destination.
"That's my lineage; that's who I am. I had the right to know who they were, and I'm just so thrilled after a long wait, and long search, that it's finally happening," Vinzetta said. "It's not a perfect family. It's a broken family. My mother, God rest her soul, was a difficult woman who went through some very difficult times. My sisters are wonderful survivors. They fought to get through it. There are some emotional scars, but they're all very grounded. ... I know there will be difficult things to hear, but it's part of the journey. I'd like to take that journey with them, and they're willing to take that journey with me. That's the important thing."