Tonawanda News — It’s been a long road for Patrick Connolly.
When the Town of Tonawanda boy was diagnosed in March 2009 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, he started treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and knew immediately that he wanted to help others in his situation by taking part in the annual Ride for Roswell.
Now, three years later, the third-grader spent Friday at Field Day with his classmates at St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore, celebrating his final chemotherapy treatment, his upcoming third Ride for Roswell — and the $2,558.47 donation raised by his fellow students for “Team Patrick.”
Patrick said he doesn’t want anymore kids to get cancer, and he wants to support the hospital where he’s been treated.
“It’s a really good place,” he said, “and the nurses are really nice.”
St. John the Baptist teacher Linda Garrity said the money for the annual Roswell fundraiser was raised through the “Pennies for Patrick” change collection (which scored more than 300 pounds of coins this year), bake sales, a theme basket raffle (for which prizes totaling more than $800 were donated), entry fees for the school’s KidBiz entrepreneurial project and a number of neighborhood lemonade stands.
All those pennies have added up — counting this year’s donation, students and staff have raised more than $5,000 for Patrick’s rides over the past three years, Garrity said.
“It’s a real group effort,” she said. “They literally collected pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters. It’s truly all these pennies that have added up.”
In addition, Patrick’s journey has been a learning experience for all the students, Garrity said, both in regards to his illness and and how everyone reacted to it.
“The kids started to notice things, and they said, ‘We have to have his back,’ “ she said. “It’s not about the money. The kids have developed such empathy and understanding because of it. I’ve had middle school kids come to me and say, ‘Mrs. Garrity, I saw Patrick and I think he’s having a bad day. Is he doing OK?’”