At 20 years of age, Lakeisha ‘Lucky’ Patterson is already an accomplished elite athlete, splashing her way to two gold, three silver and one bronze at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics and two gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
But growing up, life wasn’t what Lakeisha had hoped for…
“I was a broken kid from a broken family with a broken heart,” she recalls.
“Coming from a domestic violence home, life was not what I dreamt for myself. One day mum packed up us kids, the car, the cat, and we started our new life with fifty-dollars. Mum took three jobs to support us, all while recovering from cancer.
“We didn’t have a dining table for a very long time, but we had a little square table cloth that we would lay out on the floor. My sisters and I would do our homework on it and we would eat our meals there.”
Lakeisha also struggles with Cerebral Palsy and micrographia, which make it harder to control the muscles on the left side of her body and write with pen and paper.
In the midst of this hardship, Lakeisha found support in her school chaplain Ken.
“Chappy Ken taught me to be strong, inspired me to be great and taught me to laugh again,” Lakeisha says.
“With Ken encouraging me to get involved in everything whether I could do it or not, meant I had someone other than my mum that believed in me.
“It may seem like a simple thing, but for a kid with a broken heart this meant more than you can imagine.”
Chappy Ken says Lakeisha was an inspiration to him from day one. But even he couldn’t predict how much of an inspiration she would become to countless others in the years to come.
“I had no idea where Lakeisha’s journey would take her, because at that stage swimming was just a part of her therapy,” Ken says.
“She never complained about her predicament, which was really powerful for me. She’s a really beautiful inspiration to those who think they can’t ‘do it’.
“The fallout of that has reached more than those on the side of the pool. For me to be a tiny part of her journey – I can only thank God, it’s just amazing.”
Having access to a school chaplain helped Lakeisha grow through a tough home life into a positive role model for teens around the world.
“I think chaplaincy is incredibly important – it needs to be part of the fabric that keeps our schools running,” Lakeisha says.
“Parents can be so busy; they don’t know what happens when you’re in the school grounds, so just having someone there looking out for you is crucial.
“My family and I grew up walking a Christian faith, but I think through those hard times we lost our connection to God. It was really hard to try and see the good in things, but Ken was there to provide that light and show me that there is a life worth living.
“It was amazing to have that support. I’m proud of who I’ve become, and part of that is thanks to him. I am now very comfortable with my faith and thank God that he gave me a walking angel in the shape of Ken.”
For Chappy Ken, he can’t speak highly enough of the young woman Lakeisha has grown into.
“Lakeisha is a very, very selfless person,” Ken says.
“Her gold shines through her heart, and there’s no amount of gold medals that will ever compare to that.
“I don’t think God wants our gold medals, he wants our hearts, and Lakeisha’s is in the right place.”
Your support for school chaplaincy makes Lakeisha story possible. Help keep this vital work going by visiting www.suqld.org.au/donate