In December 1970, Patrick Rowe founded Silver Wheels Football Club. The Silver Wheels Wheelchair Football Team is a non-profit, tax –exempt, recreational organization composed entirely of physically and mentally handicapped young men and women ranging from pre-teen to adult. The team members come from the Buffalo and Western New York area. The Silver Wheels compete against non-handicapped groups who must also play football in wheelchairs. The main emphasis is to provide service to members and make the non-handicapped public aware of the abilities of handicapped athletes. Throughout its history, Silver Wheels has helped to raise thousands of dollars for local charities.
Silver Wheels football games are held indoors on a regular basketball court under specially modified NFL rules. The season runs from the middle of October to June, and the games are designed to be as competitive as physically possible without leading to serious injuries. Some of the teams that the Silver Wheels team has competed against include: Area media stars, members of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, the Blue Pride of Buffalo, area Lion Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, High School faculty groups, and other varied community service organizations. Membership consists of approximately 40-50 people.
Twenty-one years ago, Rowe formed the Silver Wheels team to provide an outlet in which wheelchair-bound men could feel as capable as anyone else within their limitations. He felt that the disabled have just as much right to play sports as anyone. In 1985, Rowe was attacked in his Cheektowaga home and stabbed 23 times. After being left for dead, he managed to call police and lived to testify at his attacker’s trial. The Silver Wheels Wheelchair Club was started while he was a junior at Williamsville North High School.
Rowe played guard and middle linebackers for a decade before retiring in the early 1980’s. Now, he served strictly as a coach for the team. Since 1970, the “Wheels” have played approximately 150 games, losing only 12 of these games. In 1982, a group of cheerleaders known as “The Silver Stars” was added to the Silver Wheels program. The squad is composed of young women with a variety of handicapping conditions.
When a person joins the Silver Wheels team, Rowe councils him/her with the parents to get more education, become employed and contribute to society. He encourages them not to sell themselves short or sit in front of the ‘tube’ and let their parents take care of them. Through this and by example, Rowe has become a father-figure to his Silver Wheels family. For more than 20 years, he has worked a 4-day week at Buffalo Psychiatric Center. In addition to this position, he lines up games for Silver Wheels, provides transportation to team members, and plans fundraisers and social activities, among other tasks.
Rowe also responds to requests to speak at public functions. In 1999, he was the main speaker at the graduation exercises of a local Buffalo school. In December 1995, Rowe had an article entitled, “Dating and People with Disabilities,” published in the periodical 1 Step Ahead – The Disability Resource. He has also written several poems from the “physically challenged person’s point of view. Canisius College, Rowe’s alma mater, established in 1992 the “Pat Rowe Award” for students exhibiting outstanding campus and/or community service.