Patrick sits in his chair, headphones on, rocking out. It’s obvious when you meet him that he is an energetic young man filled with a passion for music. His enthusiasm for the outdoors, not so obvious at first, compliments the vibes from his headphones. Patrick skis, swims, and has just started paddle boarding. He loves the fresh air and the feeling of the wind on his face as much as he loves music. And when he is not enjoying the outdoors or listening to his favorite music, he works at his own business, called Purely Patrick.
Patrick was born premature, has Cerebral Palsy coupled with intellectual delay. Patrick is also completely blind, and uses a wheelchair but while on the ski slopes he rides a bi-ski. He relies on his instructors at Stowe Mountain Resort to act as his eyes and steer him down the mountain or paddle him across the water.
Patrick has been sponsored by Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports (FOSAS) since he arrived in Stowe in 2009 with his parents. Support from FOSAS gives him the opportunity to enjoy recreational time with his family as well as getting plenty of exercise. When he began attending Stowe High school, one of his teachers suggested he participate in the ski program as his gym credit. Patrick began hitting the slopes every Tuesday and he has continued regularly for the last eight years.
Skiing has always been very important to Patrick’s family. His mom, Mary Anne, grew up skiing and has made sure it was part of her family’s life. For Patrick’s family, hitting the slopes was not just about exercise; it was also about participating together in a favorite family activity. With FOSAS’s support and Patrick’s love for skiing, he now has the opportunity to be included with his family. One of Mary Anne’s favorite memories is skiing with Patrick, and her 83 year-old Dad. “It was really special to have three generations of skiers out on the hill together enjoying a sport that they all loved.”
Safety is always a first priority on the slopes but Mary Anne identified another aspect that is almost as important. “Patrick’s ski instructors guide Patrick’s bi-ski like he is 25 and able bodied. Instead of slowly traversing the hill like one might expect, he flies down the slopes with the wind in his face. Although Patrick doesn’t communicate by speaking, he expresses himself through his facial expressions, laughter, and by singing songs. While riding up on the Gondola, Patrick would always hum and sing the same song. Matt, Patrick’s instructor, figured out that he was singing “Take me to the Place I Love”. It is clear to everyone who has skied with Patrick or met up with him on the mountain that he loves it.”
FOSAS programs don’t just provide the equipment, know how, and resources to get Patrick on the slopes, the organization also creates a great community that Patrick and his family love to be a part of. Matt Lindemer, who has been Patrick’s ski instructor for many years, has become a great friend. Mary Anne notes, “Having a ski buddy with you on the hill always makes it more fun. Many skiers know Patrick and can easily spot him in his bright green jacket. I love how people always come up to say hello and ask questions about the bi ski.”
Patrick’s athletic skills have improved greatly over the years. Skiing requires that he work on his balance and reflexes. Just holding up his head with the helmet helps strengthen his muscles. Patrick has even learned to turn his head back and forth when he wants to turn.
In addition to skiing, Patrick is an avid swimmer, and this summer he began stand up paddle boarding with FOSAS’s new partner Paddle North. He sits on the front of the board and uses his core to stay balanced as the instructor paddles with him around Lake Elmore. This is a very challenging workout but also a lot of fun. Patrick’s mom thought they would give one lesson a try because “why not!” He enjoyed it so much they continued going into October until it was just too cold to be on the lake.
When he isn’t recreating, Patrick’s business, Purely Patrick, relies on him to fill jars with ingredients for all kinds of different things including baked goods, soups, bird seed or even dog cookies. Each jar contains the dry ingredients beautifully layered into a work of art. Patrick sells them at the Brass Lantern Inn, which his parents own, and around Stowe at various farmer’s markets and Art on the Park.
If you spot Patrick skiing down Mt. Mansfield, swimming laps at The Swimming Hole, or paddling across Lake Elmore, be sure to say hello, that is if you can catch him!
Read a blog about Patrick’s experience on the paddle board here.