Tobey Elementary Makes a Small Issue a Big Deal

Patrick, Rachel, and Karen Russon at Tobey Elementary school as he gets ready to go outside on his safety patrol duties.
Patrick, Rachel, and Karen Russon at Tobey Elementary school as he gets ready to go outside on his safety patrol duties.

By Sue Moore

“Patrick may be short in stature but he is mighty in spirit,” said Karen Russon about her son Patrick, who is a fifth grader at Tobey Elementary. “He stands in at 4 feet tall now but he doesn’t let that stop him, he’s a leader in the safety patrol, and super friendly to all the kids in school.”

Patrick was diagnosed as a dwarf when he was only two days old. When Patrick was approaching school age, his older sister Rachel, then in third grade, brought the subject of her brother’s acceptance at Tobey Elementary to Principal Mike Barwegen’s attention. She was concerned about how Patrick would be accepted by the other children. Rachel courageously educated the entire Tobey student body about dwarfism with a presentation during an all school assembly.

The students at Tobey have accepted Patrick just as he is from day one. “Patrick is our friend. We are all different in ways. He is just like everyone else,” Charlie Wester said. Now, seven years later, Patrick wanted to reeducate his friends and raise money for the Little People of America organization. While designing his own presentation, Patrick realized Dwarfism Awareness month was not officially recognized in the state of Michigan. When his classmates found out, they sprang into action. “We are confused and want to fix this,” Avery Barker stated. A letter to the governor along with a proclamation written by student council officers Lucy Glerum, Charlie Wester, Cody Hatridge, Avery Barker and Patrick urged the Governor to recognize Dwarfism Awareness because, “we feel it is necessary for our population to recognize people with dwarfism in the state of Michigan. Our friend, Patrick Russon, is a highly respected student at our school and we feel that this proclamation needs to be recognized,” Cody Hatridge said.

During an assembly for all the grades at Tobey, Patrick was given all the love that the 314 students could generate, much to his delight. Carcel Tharge, a fourth grader, spoke up as the two embraced in front of all the kids, “Patrick has been my friend all these years I’ve been here. It doesn’t matter what he has, he’s my great friend,” as he rubbed away the tears.

“He’s just like everyone in the school, all boy,” said Barwegen. “He is super friendly to all the kids, as he flourishes in an environment where the kids really support him. Patrick is ready for Hollywood right now with his outgoing personality and his courage in the face of being different from most. In Patrick’s case, the students at Tobey already believe in his potential,” Barwegen said.

On October 19th, 2015 Governor Rick Snyder proclaimed October as Dwarfism Awareness month for the State of Michigan. “We changed the world,” Patrick proclaimed.

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