Paws for Patrick, a Chicago-area non-profit that provides support to young people with mental health issues through the use of emotional support and therapy animals, has seen a large number of requests in recent months.
The organization was created in Sept. 2020 to honor the memory of Patrick Roemer, an 18-year-old at Lake Forest High School who took his own life earlier in the year after experiencing depression and anxiety.
He had a special relationship with animals, especially his black Labrador retriever Cici, his 15-year-old sister Magdalene said. She said Cici was his soul mate.
"We wanted to do something that would honor him in a way that he would want us to," she said.
Paws for Patrick pairs an animal with an owner, but also makes sure the animals are trained and received certification as Emotional Support Animals. The organization also provides opportunities for people to interact with therapy dogs in group settings.
Patrick would have turned 19 on Feb. 8. His family is asking people honor his legacy by reaching out to people who may be experiencing mental health issues.
Jake Conway, a senior at The Ohio State University from Deerfield, was partnered up with his golden retriever Theo through Paws for Patrick this past September.
"When I come home from dinner and see him in the doorway with his tail wagging and ears tucked back, it just reminds me that I'm loved," he said. "Sometimes you just need someone to talk to."
Fronzie Roemer, Patrick's mother, said Patrick was happiest when he was with animals. She added that he made the animals happy too.
The organization has had more than 40 requests for support animals since it started in September. Fronzie said people interested in being paired with animal can fill out an Emotional Support Animal Request form on the organization's website.
"Every time we see a young person paired with [an animal], it makes me feel like Patrick is smiling down," Fronzie said. "When you look into a dog's eyes, it just makes you feel better."