To eight-year-old Patrick, attending the Kansas City Chiefs training camp each year is an absolute dream. Patrick is a dedicated Chiefs fan, and it brightens his day every time his team wins.
But Patrick’s love of football extends beyond the field. While Chiefs training camp is fun to attend, it also holds a special place in his heart because that’s exactly where he was the day he learned he’d been approved to receive a Canine Companions service dog.
“We were super excited,” says Brie, Patrick’s mom. “The first thing we did was head over to the Chiefs gift shop and pick out a dog bandana.”
Patrick lives with cerebral palsy; the outcome of a stroke while he was still in utero. As a result, he also has autism and epilepsy, which Brie says has played a challenging role in his ability to connect with other kids his age.
At a young age, Patrick spent a lot of time at the local children’s hospital, which is where Brie learned about facility dogs; professionally trained dogs that work with health care providers to aid patient experience. This is when Brie realized a working dog for Patrick – a service dog – may be the answer they were looking for.
Fast forward to the May of 2022: Patrick was successfully matched with Canine Companions Service Dog Julio.
“He’s been a great addition to our family,” Brie says of Julio. “He [Patrick] is just so much more confident than he was before. You can tell now, it feels good for him to be the boss of something.”
Patrick and Julio’s bond is undeniable. So much so, it gained the attention of Chiefs Defensive End George Karlaftis. It was at last year’s training camp when Karlaftis approached Patrick and Julio.
“It was surreal,” says Brie. “All the guys who were there giving autographs were so excited to see a dog there.”
George decided he wanted to do something to support the organization that had made such an impact on young Patrick. So, he agreed to represent Canine Companions during the My Cause My Cleats game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I absolutely love what they do and what they stand for. Pairing service animals with people who have disabilities can make a massive change in easing that person’s life,” Karlaftis said in regard to Canine Companions.
As the first and largest nonprofit provider of service dogs, Canine Companions has placed more than 7,600 teams like Patrick and Julio since its founding in 1975. Canine Companions dogs and all follow-up services are provided at no cost to their clients. Support from the NFL through opportunities like My Cause My Cleats and Kingdom Pet Pack allow the organization to further its mission to help individuals with disabilities live with enhanced independence.
Following the game, Karlaftis decided Patrick deserved his own set of cleats. He had a second, identical pair designed, which he gifted to Patrick for Christmas. This upcoming holiday, Patrick and his family will attend the Chiefs home game on Christmas Day, then have the opportunity to meet some of the players on the field.
“We are really excited. We’re planning to surprise Patrick with it. It will be a Christmas surprise and I think he’s just really gonna love it,” says Brie.