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Clarence students to participate in World Dwarf Games

Patrick Jones, the 11-year-old son of Neal and Maria Jones of Clarence, will be participating in the World Dwarf Games this August in East Lansing, Mich.

Patrick was born with dwarfism, which is a genetic condition that comes in hundreds of forms. Yet, Patrick doesn’t let anything hold him back. Not only does he frequently participate in dwarf sporting events, he also plays many sports with average-sized kids his age.

Although Patrick, a student at Casey Middle School, has shown he can compete with anybody, he says it’s “fun” to play with people his height. He has participated in soccer, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, badminton and track and field. Some events require slight variations to accommodate the height difference, but mostly, all the games are played by the same rules as when being played by people without dwarfism.

Patrick and his family became involved with the World Dwarf Games when Patrick was 5 years old through the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA), which “provides competition for people with dwarfism.” They discovered the DAAA through a separate group called Little People of America, an organization that “provides a social network for little people and [their parents] to support each other [and share] knowledge.”

Neal Jones said they found Little People of America through a “chance encounter with a child with dwarfism.” Little People of America has many local groups, but the nearest one to this area is in Syracuse.

The DAAA has provided opportunities for Patrick to participate in the annual National Dwarf Games on three separate occasions in Brooklyn, Nashville, Tenn., and Anaheim, Calif., but this will be the first World Dwarf Games for Patrick, as he was too young the last time this quadrennial event took place. Patrick has won several medals in the national events.

The World Dwarf Games will include participants from approximately 50 countries, according to Jones.

Patrick said going to events like this gives him an opportunity to see some of his friends.

“This is our first World Games,” said Maria Jones, “so we’re not 100 percent sure how it’s going to go.”

Patrick doesn’t train for these events in terms of a strict regimen, but he does participate in dwarf athletic competitions frequently, as well as participating in non-dwarf sports leagues. One of the dwarf athletic events he competes in is the annual Victory Games (formally known as the Empire State Games for the Physically Challenged), which consists of various track and field events as well as swimming.

Patrick and his family do, however, expect him to be one of the better players this summer in the new hockey event, as Patrick has spent the past year playing with the Buffalo Warriors In-line Hockey League.

“For the first time the DAAA has hockey,” said Jones. “And training with the Warriors is definitely going to make him one of the better players there.”

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get money for events like these, both for participants and for the host organization.

“You … usually have to find people with some type of connection to a person with dwarfism,” Jones said.

Maria Jones added that because dwarfism isn’t that prevalent, it’s not a cause that many people feel the need to give to.

The DAAA encourages personal fundraising, said Maria Jones, adding, “money is tight all around.”

The Joneses did attempt to have a fundraiser for Patrick earlier in the year, but it only saw limited success.

The Joneses made sure to stress one thing. People should not refer to Patrick as a “dwarf” or a “midget,” but instead, just call him Patrick. After all, Patrick is just like any other kid and he wants to be an FBI agent when he grows up. Patrick said he rarely gets made fun of because of his condition, but his parents said, “We hear kids say things.”

“We get more upset than [Patrick] does,” said Maria Jones. “We try not to get overly upset, because it upsets him … he’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it, who cares what they say? ... It’s just words.’ ”

They did say, however, the kids Patrick goes to school with “are wonderful to him.”

Neal Jones emphasized that “midget” generally has a negative connotation, so the term “dwarf” should be used if necessary, although opinions can vary among individuals. Patrick’s mother said she doesn’t “like the word dwarf,” but Patrick said he’s “fine” with it.

The Joneses had a learning curve when it came to dwarfism, but they will never know what it’s like for Patrick.

“I can’t tell him what he’s going to experience,” said his dad, who is taller than 6 feet.

The Joneses said that when it comes to Patrick and dwarfs in general, people should know that they can do anything anyone else can do. They described Patrick as “small but mighty.”

“People with dwarfism are people,” said Neal Jones.

Patrick plans to continue participating in the Dwarf Games for years to come. He is also a candidate for a National Geographic series on excellence for people with dwarfism.

Justin Smith is a senior at Williamsville North High School.