This cyclist sports an outgoing and funny side

Patrick Cronin of Montville trains with other athletes at Camp Harkness in Waterford for cycling events to be held at the Special Olympics Summer Games in New Haven next month.
Patrick Cronin of Montville trains with other athletes at Camp Harkness in Waterford for cycling events to be held at the Special Olympics Summer Games in New Haven next month.

The frequent smiles are an early indication of Patrick Cronin's unique sense of humor.

Then the questions start to come and you find a little more evidence.

Patrick is asking to see your cell phone. Then in a few quick key strokes, he's uncovered your recent calls.

Before you know it, he's asking who everyone is as he scrolls through each number. To cap it off, he holds the phone to his ear to make a fake phone call - just to see if you've been paying attention.

He laughs and then hands the phone back over (he has his own iPhone tucked in a front pocket). Then Patrick is racing back over to his custom tricycle to resume a practice ride with his friends on the paths of Camp Harkness.

Patrick, 18, is intellectually challenged, and was adopted by his parents, Dan and Ginni Cronin, in 2004.

He's found one stable home in Oakdale with his parents and another in the Special Olympics, which has provided a place where Patrick's outgoing nature and humor are a welcome addition.

"Before, we couldn't take him to Wal-Mart - now he works at Wal-Mart," Dan Cronin said. "He has a sense of belonging. No matter what you're involved with, it's a blast for the kids."

Patrick has been involved in quite a lot. He said he has played tennis, swimming, track and field, soccer, basketball and now he's on to a new sport - cycling.

Dan Cronin said that Patrick first tried riding a bicycle and a crash ensued. So he moved on to a three-wheel model - one with a sleek blue coat of paint - and things have since been much easier under the tutelage of his coaches in the Mystic/Ledyard chapter of the Special Olympics.

Patrick said cycling is fun. It's also been an exercise that does not require too much stress on his feet, a directive of his doctor, his mother said.

Patrick is scheduled to compete in the state's Special Olympics Summer Games in early June. The games, which will bring more than 2,000 athletes to New Haven's Southern Connecticut State University, gives Patrick a chance to cycle in a 3K or 5K race.

He also has the chance to stay in a dorm room and indulge in a favorite activity he experienced in a past trip to the games.

"You go in and get massages," Patrick said.

Dan and Ginni Cronin both explained their early experience with Patrick as difficult. Dan said he required constant attention. But slowly he started to mature and the family found that Special Olympics provided a place where they could be at ease.

"We don't have to pretend to be anything than what we are," said Ginni Cronin, who is also a special education teacher at Salem School.

Terry Davidson, the coach who heads the local chapter that Patrick competes in, complimented the Cronins for their support and said he has also noticed Patrick's maturation.

Indeed, Patrick now works a handful of hours stocking clothing at a Wal-Mart in Lisbon. He participated in Unified Basketball, which pairs varsity and special needs athletes, at Montville High School, where he is a student.

Patrick also finds time early on Saturday mornings during the spring to come to Camp Harkness for cycling practice. His family comes along, too. His mother is working toward her certification as a coach and his father works as the team's mechanic, sitting by closely with his tool box.

Next month, the family will also go together to New Haven for the Summer Games, which is going to be a big event on their summer calendar.

"The state games are the highlight of the year," Dan Cronin said. "It's our Disney World."

Patrick certainly seems to enjoy cycling, which he has been doing for about a year. While he joked in an interview that he would trade his tricycle for a reporter's car keys, on a recent Saturday morning he was one of the riders leading his peers on a practice ride through Camp Harkness.

As he took off from the starting line, he looked to the side for a brief moment.

There was a smile on his face.



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