Community runs for Pat

Pat Morales was the ultimate guy. He played baseball, cross country, basketball, and hockey in high school and played club soccer in 2011 when he began his college career at Norwich University.

Not a bad word can be said about Morales, as he always walked around with a smile and made sure to brighten everyone’s day.

Pat Morales speaks to a WCAX reporter about his recovery and dream to run again. (Thomas Carson Photo)

Pat Morales speaks to a WCAX reporter about his recovery and dream to run again. (Thomas Carson Photo)

During the month of winter break of his first year at college, Morales suffered a self-inflicted traumatic brain injury that put him in a vegetative state.  He was put on life support and doctors didn’t think he would ever recover.  But he has beaten the odds and is making a remarkable recovery.

On April 28, 2013, friends, family, and community members of Northfield, Vt., held the ‘Race for Recovery’ for Pat Morales, explained Marguerite Moore, a family friend of the Morales’ from Northfield, Vt.  This race was held to raise money for treatment to help Morales run again.

“When I got the phone call, I was devastated. His father called and was very upset,” said M. Moore.  “He explained what happened.  The next day I talked to his dad and he was on life support.”

Two hundred and fifty community members came together and held a candlelight vigil for Morales on that winter night that his parents were to take him off of life support.

“Kids came and sang some of his favorite songs and we recorded it and played it for him that night.  They put it up to his ear,” M. Moore said, “That was the night we thought everything was going to end. Maybe if not for the vigil it would have. I’d like to think that.”

All of Morales’ friends could not believe what had happened to him. “When I heard of the incident I dropped to my knees on the living room floor because the first words I heard were that he was gone,” said Patrick Venetz, 19, a sophomore criminal justice major from Old Forge, N.Y.

Venetz played club soccer with Morales during their first semester at Norwich University and “naturally they hit it off from the start due to our different lifestyles at school,” Venetz said.

Morales was a civilian and Venetz is in the Corps of Cadets. They loved asking each other questions about what it was like to wake up at 0500 every morning or what it was like to be able to sleep in on the weekends, he remembered.

Morales had a special way with everyone. Haley Moore, a former student of Norwich University from Northfield, Vt., was not very close to Morales in high school but said, “he’s the kid that everyone knew. He was super friendly.”

Morales took H. Moore under his wing once they came to Norwich together. “I was too shy to meet people, so he always took me places and introduced me so that I could make friends easier,” said H. Moore, “we spent almost every day together in college. When he smiles, it’s hard for the people around him not to smile back.”

Victoria Bernier, 21, a junior criminal justice major from Manchester, Conn., was able to get to know Morales while they lived in the same dorm building and had classes together.

“Patrick was told he was never going to be able to walk, he was never going to be able to see or talk,” she said. “And now he’s walking, talking, and has 20/20 vision. His next goal is to run.”

The cost of the therapy for Morales to be able to run again is $5,000. Morales mother asked the community for help to raise the money that insurance doesn’t cover because it is such a new treatment, said Bernier.

“We put on a 5k run to raise 5k,” said Dillon Otis, 21, a psychology major from Northfield, Vt., “It’s been very heartwarming and very respectful all day today.”

The committee made sure to have something that everyone in the community could participate in, Bernier explained. “We have the one-mile kids race, 5k starting at 2 p.m., Zumba is going on, we have face painting, we have a bunch of vendors with a lot of food,” she said.  “We also have a lady selling tea lights and all of the proceeds going to him.”

The day ended up being much more then they had expected. About 90 people showed up to run the 5k race that afternoon, said M. Moore.

The committee putting on the event had their financial goal but more than that, however, they really wanted to see the people come out to support Morales while he walked the 5k himself, as the community cheered him across the finish line.

“Were going to continue fundraising, people can still donate,” said M. Moore, “Were going to keep that going and hopefully we will be back next year.”

Morales story of recovery can influence almost anyone.  He truly gave everyone a sense of the meaning of perseverance. “Watching him go from day one until now, it was like watching a miracle before your very eyes;” said Venetz. “It was amazing.”

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