In 2016, GOOD Morning Wilton reported a story about a nine-year-old Wilton boy, Patrick “Patch” Angerame, and his incredible experience as a first-time player in the Wilton Youth Football program.
A nine-year-old playing youth football might not seem newsworthy, but Patch is not a typical player. Before he was born he suffered a stroke that left him with some significant challenges, including cerebral palsy.
Five years since our original story, GMW has followed Patch, now in eighth grade, through his final youth football season. His mother, Jennifer Angerame, spoke to GMW about Patch’s time in the program and what it has meant to her son and family.
“We can’t appreciate it enough,” Jennifer said, when it comes to how her family feels about both the players and the coaches who have supported her son’s football experience.
She recounted numerous examples of ways in which coaches and players — including those from opposing teams — enabled Patch to have such a full experience.
“I would like to specifically thank the coach, Chris Calabrese, because he’s the ringleader, and all of our coaches,” Jennifer said, also naming Jerry Padilla, Jeff Herlyn, John Wiseman, Rick Tomasetti, Bert Pykosz, Asterios Satrazemis and Mark McAndrews.
Jennifer also thanked “team mom” Sue Totten and her husband Roby Totten for their support and photos.
GMW reached out to Calabrese and Tomasetti (whose wife Patti was instrumental in Patch’s initial involvement in the program), who offered the highest praise for Patch’s contribution to the team.
Calabrese said, “Patch is what coaching is all about. Every coach can go from yelling and being frustrated and as soon as they see Patch there is a smile on their faces.”
Tomasetti messaged GMW to say, “Words cannot describe Patchy. It has been a privilege to have him on the team. He bleeds blue, a true Warrior on and off the field.”
Jennifer explained that Patch’s participation evolved over the years, from just suiting up to later scoring touchdowns. One of Patch’s coaches, John Wiseman, even created a play just for Patch, called the “sham-wow.”
“In [Patch’s] eyes, he is part of the team,” Jennifer said. “He has called himself ‘the secret weapon’.”
“The boys and girls on the team just took [Patch] in,” Jennifer continued. “He is one of their own, he is one of their people.”
Calabrese described the relationship in similar terms, but added that Patch inspires the best in the other players.
“This is his team. The kids know that and play for him,” Calabrese said. “I really think they play to make sure that Patch gets to run the last play of every game, and not just for the win.”
Calabrese recalled one game when the team’s motivation to see Patch play made a difference.
“I called timeout to remind the kids if they didn’t get the first down, Patch would not get in. They went nuts in the huddle and sure enough, got the first down.”
Tomasetti added, “He has more heart than anyone on the field. He never gives up. When the team is down, he is the first one to say the game is not over.”
In the youth football league, every player gets exposure and experience, with rules that require a minimum number of plays per game for every rostered player. Opposing teams sometimes take notice when teams aren’t playing all of their players, but Jennifer says over the years, they’ve come to know Patch and understand the special circumstances.
She believes the acceptance Patch found among his teammates and opposing teams is a wonderful example of how compassion can spread.
“I just hope they have taken away a little piece of compassion and carried that forward. Because of kindness and compassion, [Patch] gets to [play].”
“We’re going to miss it,” Jennifer said. “I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”