Friday, August 31, 2012

Fore Brooke

Patrick Patterson's autistic daughter is the driving force behind his golf tournament.

sherese.gore@roanoke.com721-4675 (ext. 406)

Patrick Patterson describes his home as something like a fortress. The doors are deadbolted, the windows are screwed shut and a 6-foot-high fence spans the perimeter of his Montvale yard.

The security measures do not exist to keep intruders out, but to keep a 9-year-old child with autism in.

Patterson's daughter Brooke began demonstrating autistic behaviors such as babbling and lack of eye contact around 2 years of age. She was diagnosed at 3. Brooke has limited communication skills and requires constant supervision, her father said.

"She's not a severe autistic, but she's not high enough on the spectrum to be considered Asperger's [syndrome]," he explained.

Now a "quiet, respectful" fourth-grader at Montvale Elementary, Brooke rides the school bus and attends classes with non-autistic children during a portion of the day. At all times, she carries a backpack filled with the DVD cases of her favorite television shows, "like a security blanket," her father said.

"[Brooke] does her own thing, and keeps to herself," and therefore, is the better behaved child of the three, Patterson joked.

But parenting an autistic child can be emotionally isolating at times, Patterson said. The family isn't able to enjoy pleasures of the past such as going out to eat or visiting friends because Brooke was prone to meltdowns or wandering. In addition, Patterson's job at a steel abrasives company requires regular travel away from the family, leaving his wife Cheerre to care for Brooke and her two sisters alone.

"I have a wife that hasn't worked in nine years because we couldn't have a babysitter," said Patterson. The couple's other daughters, 12-year-old Lauren and Emily, 6, have been helpful, he said. "They love [Brooke] to death and understand the issue."

In an effort to raise awareness and donations for autism research, Patterson has coordinated a golf tournament at the Westlake Golf and Country Club to be held Sept. 22.

The cost to play is $65, or sponsors can purchase a hole for $100, said Patterson. The tournament is limited to 100 participants, and all proceeds will be directed to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.

Patterson's first fundraising endeavor was coordinating a softball tournament in 2011. It raised more than $2,000. He said he hopes to double that amount this year through the golf tournament.

"Being able to raise awareness was my driving factor," said Patterson. "To help those who are autistic now and to better educate people."

The autism golf tournament will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until the last player finishes.

For more information, contact Patterson, 875-7695 or patrick.patterson@wabrasives.com.