Patrick’s Challenge: How Special Olympics helped more than his golf swing

Patrick and his girlfriend Cassidy at prom
Patrick and his girlfriend Cassidy attended prom together.

No matter where 18-year-old Patrick Flewelling goes in Halifax, NS, he always runs into someone he knows.

The Special Olympics golfer has made friends and connections of all ages since joining the movement in Nova Scotia at a young age.

Both Patrick and his younger brother Joseph, 13, have Down Syndrome. Their parents registered them for Special Olympics as soon as they could.

While Joseph is still trying out a number of sports with his age group, Patrick has chosen to focus on golf, floor hockey, softball and, most recently, curling.

“We have fun,” Patrick said with a smile. “I like to make new friends too.”

Patrick spends most of his time on the golf course, with Special Olympics and family (all four brothers and his father spend Monday nights golfing together).

“Special Olympics has been fantastic for him athletically and socially,” said his father Scott. “It’s allowed Patrick to kind of expand in different ways – there’s more independence as a result.”

He also believes it helped build his confidence, which lead to many friendships – and his girlfriend, Cassidy, who’s also involved with Special Olympics teams in Bedford, NS. Patrick even worked up the courage to ask her to prom earlier this year.

“If he wasn’t with Special Olympics I think he would be under our cocoon and be limited in his interactions with others,” said Scott. “It’s fantastic.”

Before having Patrick, Scott admit he’s never had much experience with individuals with intellectual disabilities and getting involved with Special Olympics was “an eye opener” for him.

“It’s really changed our lives and I think it’s changed perceptions of other people – and my own,” he said.

After travelling to Patrick’s first provincial competition, Scott decided to get more involved and become a coach himself.

“I find it pretty fulfilling – I have a lot of fun,” he said. “And it’s made me a better person.”

Patrick and his family are just one of many success stories at Special Olympics Canada.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities face challenges, both big and small, every day of their lives – challenges most will never encounter. 

Special Olympics helps build confidence to take on these challenges in sport – and in life, empowering Canadians with intellectual disabilities to live their full potential.

No matter the feat, Patrick – like all 45,000 Special Olympics athletes – has the same fearless response: Challenge Accepted. 

To help more children, youth and adults like Patrick, make a donation to Special Olympics today.