Paws for Patrick event aims to raise funds, awareness and to remember a 'kind soul'
They've got cats at the Roemer residence, but young Patrick was mainly a dog man.
Shelter dogs in particular -- he felt there are so many who need a home -- and one specifically, a black Labrador mix named CiCi.
"She was, as my daughter (Magdelene) calls it, his soul mate in many ways," said their mother, Fronzie Roemer, who works as a fitness instructor at Life Time Northbrook.
Only 5 at the time, CiCi died suddenly on the first day of Patrick's senior year at Lake Forest High School.
Patrick, who had spent time in residential care for the anxiety and depression that haunted much of his life, took his own life late in that senior year, May 2020.
"He was one of those kids at school -- I've heard so many stories -- that he helped other kids who were struggling, because he knew what it was like, I think," Fronzie said. "So he reached out a hand to help other kids with depression, with anxiety. And he was an animal lover."
Fronzie admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic's forced isolation aided the grieving process of her family, which along with daughter "Mags" also includes her husband, Steve, who works in Northfield, and son, Ben, a student at the University of Michigan.
Yet Fronzie is one of those parents who quickly countered the tragic loss of a child by forging a mission, intent on helping people much like Patrick, with his troubles, and his passions.
She may lead kettlebell and barre classes at Life Time Northbrook, but much of her time is spent directing Paws for Patrick, a nonprofit that since its founding on Sept. 1, 2020, has connected emotional support animals and therapy dogs with young people who have a mental illness.
In the past year Paws for Patrick has either helped secure or is in the process of connecting more than 100 people with emotional support animals. The organization will pay for basic manners training for dogs, and through clinical consultations will help people get ESA certification letters to have an animal in their living space, if necessary.
"Most of the requests we have received have been for dogs, but we have received some for cats," Fronzie Roemer said. "We know people can use bunnies or birds for ESAs, too."
Eleven Paws for Patrick therapy dogs will be on the grounds of the Lake Forest Recreation Center, 400 Hastings Road, for the Paws for Patrick Walk for Awareness and Family Fair, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26.
"It's a big party," Fronzie said, that will include food trucks, more than 30 wellness resource booths, and dogs and other critters up for adoption by several participating animal shelters.
For entertainment the fair will offer a wide variety of "old-school games," Fronzie said, the Glenbrook North duo Spice City Music, youth band F.L.A.M.E. and headliner Taylor & Mane.
More than 500 people already have registered for the fair at pawsforpatrick.org, which Roemer hopes becomes an annual event.
It's free to attend, but people may donate or help crowdfund, she said. To do the latter, visit justgiving.com/campaign/walkforawareness2021.
As for the walk, on the track at the Lake Forest Recreation Center, it's just that.
"It's not a race," Roemer said. "It's a mindful walk, where we will have inspirational quotes along the walk. Like, 'It's OK not to be OK.' We'll have things for people to contemplate, to be mindful of."
Perfect. His mother described Patrick as a kind soul, an athlete, an artist, simultaneously strong and sensitive. And when he felt down, he knew where he could go to be OK.
"All he wanted to do was come home to see his dog," Fronzie said.