Bulldogs join son’s colorful tribute

 HEMET Garrett Patterson doesn’t need to wear pink to be reminded of his mother. Instead, the Hemet High senior came up with a more colorful approach to honor his mom, Cheri, who died of breast cancer last year.

   “Me and my mom used to get up early and walk on the 
beach and watch the sun rise,” Garrett said, remembering a family vacation to Hawaii. “She loved the ocean and water and everything about being there. … It was always a place that was super peaceful and tranquil. My mom always talked about going back, but once she got sick it was hard to make a trip like that. But she always wanted to.”

   This past summer, Garrett, a captain on the Bulldogs water polo team, suggested the team wear Hawaiian shirts on game days. Players typically wore polo shirts on game days, but Garrett thought the colorful shirts would be something cool and different. It was also a way to honor his mom and rekindle those precious memories of the family trips to Hawaii.

   “They said in the summer they wanted to do Hawaiian 
shirts,” Coach Travis Henderson said. “They never said, but I knew it was Garrett’s idea. I thought it was a great idea. I said ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

   Cheri Patterson was a firefighter with CDF, and a dispatcher and public information officer with the Riverside County Fire Department for 26 years. She was actively involved with the Hemet water polo team, volunteering to work concessions and help any way she could. 
   “She was always a happy person,” senior Zach Eggering said. “She was willing to support you. I first met her when I was a freshman, I started calling her Mama Cheri.”

   Cheri battled cancer for four years and was in remission at one point, Garrett said. But the cancer resurfaced and Cheri died on May 4 of last year.

   “It was a hard experience to get through,” Garrett said. “Every day I think about it. Every day I miss her. It opened my eyes and made me realize life’s short and you have to seize it while you can. I take that in the pool with me and try as hard as I can every moment 
team captains, Garrett presented his idea of wearing Hawaiian shirts on game day.

   “I had no idea he was thinking of his mom at the moment, I just thought it was a cool idea,” senior Tanner Silves said. “Thinking of the background, I realized it probably is something about his mom. I thought it was nice and sweet.”

   Players, many of whom knew Cheri, loved the idea. The bright red, yellow and white flowered shirts were ordered and immediately became a hit. Other students asked about the game-day shirts, and op-I’m 
in the water.” Cheri’s funeral was a colorful celebration of a colorful life,” Eggering said. “The whole polo team rocked Hawaiian shirts and sat together.” A year later, as one of the posing teams also complimented the Bulldogs on their sense of style.

   The background surrounding why the team wears Hawaiian shirts is not widely known, Henderson said. Some teachers and administrators have even purchased the shirts because they look good.

   For Garrett, the reason is more personal.

   “When I see guys wear the shirts it triggers a soft spot in my heart,” he said. “It reminds me of my mom and makes me so happy that I could do that, something that maybe she can see. Sometimes I feel she’s watching over me.”

   “Not everyone understands why (we wear the shirts),” added Eggering. “It’s just our tradition, how we represent the school and how we represent Cheri. It’s just not a shirt. It’s a lot more than a shirt.”



   Hemet High water polo player Garrett Patterson, front, and teammates wear Hawaiian shirts on game days.




   Garrett Patterson, then age 6, with his older brothers Brandon and Tyler and parents Cheri and Glenn during a family vacation in Hawaii.

Published Print