Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Toddler refused access to skating rink goes to Toronto Maple Leafs practice

From The Toronto Star:

After being refused access to a public skate near Hamilton, a dying toddler has been invited to practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 26.

Tucker Patterson (pictured) – who is named for former Leafs star Darcy Tucker – is confined to a wheelchair. The 3-year-old suffers from a terminal genetic disorder called Leigh’s disease, which attacks his motor functions. He can no longer walk, talk or eat.

On Jan. 17, his mother, Kari Patterson, called up a Flamborough ice rink to ask if they were able to accommodate Tucker and his wheelchair during their afternoon public skate. They were told “No.”

“I was angry,” Kari told the Hamilton Spectator. “It’s something we can do as a family ... we’re limited in what we can do together.”

The city’s recreation manager later said that the employee who’d refused the Pattersons misunderstood the facility’s policy.

Now Tucker’s team, the Leafs, have stepped up to include him. They’ve invited the family to the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday to take a spin around the big league rink.

“They are going to watch the Leafs skate, watch the L.A. Kings skate, then hopefully we can get a couple guys to give a quick meet and greet,” said Leafs community partnerships representative Jason Schwabe.

The Patterson family, including Tucker’s two sisters, are all big skaters and hockey fans. Tucker’s father, David Patterson, said a Leafs game they went to last year was one of his son’s all-time highlights.

“We have pictures of him sitting straight up and just watching the guys skate around during the warm-up ... It was just awesome to see how excited he was and how into the hockey he was,” David said. “I don't know if he'll have that same (response) the way he is now because his sight has decreased.”

Tucker and his plight are well known in and around his hometown of Waterdown. Each year, a golf tournament called Tucker’s Time is held to support the work of Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky. The McMaster researcher studies the recovery of muscle and motor function. Last year, Tucker’s namesake, NHLer Darcy, attended the event.

It’s been 18 months since Tucker was first diagnosed, at age 2. No one can say for sure how long his fight against the odds will last.

“It hasn't taken his spirit,” said Kari Patterson. “He's the happiest boy I know. He laughs, and it comes from his belly.”