Patrick after he scored his final goal in Brainerd...Photo Credit Lynn Bordson
In an instant, Patrick Schoonover went from a bright, athletic and fun loving 14 year-old boy to a saint. He died on November 14, 2014 playing hockey with his buddies at the YHH Battle for the Blue Ox.
St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland and today, the date of his death is celebrated each March, with many not knowing his great exploits as a missionary in his home country. Some day, Patrick Schoonover will be mostly remembered for dying on the ice in Brainerd in 2014. For those close to Patrick and his family, they hope his legacy will be more about the lives he saved and less about the life he lost.
Today marks the five year anniversary of Patrick Schoonover's sudden death. I was with him in the Gold Medal Arena in Brainerd that day. And he has been with me ever since.
Never in my life, have I ever felt such an intense amount of pressure to do and say the right thing and feel a certain way. A good friend recounted to me this week of the day Patrick died, "I've never seen you speechless...withdrawn." Hearing those words, brings back vivid memories of the first two days following. Facing the press (in Brainerd and Bloomington), getting answers from first responders and trying to manage it all while reconciling what just happened to this young boy hours prior. For 24-48 hours, I felt the world caving in on me.
Out of the darkness came a blinding bolt of light. Two days following Patrick's passing, his youngest brother Matthew had a PeeWee game in Apple Valley. Hundreds from the Eastview community showed up to show their support for his grieving family. That was the moment I knew that this negative was going to be turned into a positive. Event after event happened leading up to his funeral the following Friday which was culminated by busloads of young hockey players wearing white jerseys to support their hockey brother and his family. "It felt like 10,000 random acts of kindness in a very short amount of time," said Patrick's dad Mike.
I recently caught up with Patrick's father Mike to see how their family is doing and get a feel for the future vision of their foundation. Patrick's oldest sister Abby (23) is a new mother, his next sister Anna (22) is set to graduate from Central Michigan University and Matthew is a junior hockey player at Eastview. Patrick's parents Mike and Gayle help run the Patrick Schoonover Heart Foundation. An organization dedicated to awareness and screening young people for potential heart defects. A noble effort, one that has its obstacles.
He said that the biggest challenge they face screening young people for heart defects is two-fold. "One, it takes time (up to an hour) and people these days have such busy schedules. And the availability of cardiologists to read the screens can sometimes be a challenge."
Over the course of the past five years, a lot has been done to take preventative steps to reduce the threat of health/heart defects. "We will continue to lobby for stronger measures that will increase awareness on prevention and gain partnerships with hospitals and clinics to give back," said Schoonover.
Patrick's light continues to shine - just not on the cover of the Star Tribune or on Kare 11. Six times a year the foundation with equipment purchased from donations and time donated by doctors, technicians and volunteers host Youth Heart Screens.
Prior to his passing, Patrick underwent four physical exams in two years and his heart defect was not detected. Due to heightened awareness, the Schoonover family and its foundation has helped change many lives for the better.
Since 2015, the Schoonovers and a band of dedicated people have hosted 20 Play for Patrick youth heart screens. Screened 3,338 kids, found 203 with elevated blood pressure (w/repeated check), 245 with abnormal electrical or structural heart defects, taught 3,048 kids & adults CPR & AED awareness and donated 10 AEDs to area Schools.
Each year at the Battle for the Blue Ox, hundreds of boys bow their head to remember Patrick prior to their first game.