Patrick is your usual high school senior. He studies. He plays basketball. He’s a favored son of parents, Pat and Perry.
And he has Downs syndrome.
That small fact doesn’t stop Patrick from running drills with the team throughout the year or playing with them during summer practices. And even though he’s never played in a real game, when you hear his teammates talk, you can feel the respect they have for Patrick, his toughness and his dedication to the team.
But, senior night, as it’s known, would put Patrick in a special place made possible by his friend and team standout, Sam Thompson. It was Sam who gave up his starting position so that Patrick could play in his only actual game, the last his high school would play that year.
“If I can help him have a special experience tonight, I’ll do whatever it takes,” Sam said, unconcerned that he was giving up his final starting role on the team.
And even though the center of attention that night would be Patrick, the decision of his coach and the support of his fellow players would enable this young man’s dream to become real.
The game began. Patrick missed his first shot, but a minute or so later made a clean shot from 20 feet out. Swish. Three points.
Near the end of the fourth quarter, fans started chanting Patrick’s name, demanding that he get another chance to play. With just a few minutes left in the game, Patrick took his place on the court. And just as the buzzer sounded, Patrick landed another three pointer. Swish.
Final score: Greely High School: 61 — Gray New Glouster: 43.
Players surrounded the new star, lifted him in the air and carried him off the court as the school’s new hero. But to 18-year-old Patrick, the real heroes were likely his team members who gave up just a little to give him so much.