Driven to Serve
Since 2016, Richard’s daily route has been clearly mapped out.
He and his two sons set out early each morning from their home near Clarkson, at the south-western end of Mississauga.
“We get up around 5:45 a.m. and have breakfast before heading out at 6:45 a.m. I pick up one boy on my street, one a few blocks away, three brothers a few blocks further and the last one about five minutes from our home on the way into the city,” says Richard, whose sons are in grades 7 and 9 at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS).
“Usual route is along the QEW or Lakeshore and up through the city streets. We usually arrive at SMCS by 7:45 a.m.”
Richard Patricio is an alumnus, Class of ’93.
“My experience at SMCS was excellent in terms of my Catholic education and my network – virtually all my best friends are SMCS grads. I wanted that opportunity for my sons and introduced them to St. Mike’s. They made the decision [to attend],” he says “We weren’t keen on the commute having lived it myself (I grew up in Mississauga), but the benefits of attending SMCS are too strong.”
FIRST STOP: DUBAJIC FAMILY
Grade 9 student Alex had other options. He was accepted to a high school in his Mississauga neighbourhood.
“This would have been the school of choice,” says his mother Yvette. “St. Michael’s College School was a dream.”
The commute, however, was a different story.
“The other option for Alex was to take the GO train from Clarkson to Union and then the TTC to St. Clair. It would have taken Alex at least one hour and a parent to be available for drop off and pick up from the GO station. We didn’t think this was sustainable,” she says. “Richard’s kindness to drive him was the game-changer.”
SECOND STOP: ROBSON FAMILY
“The ‘Sauga bus’ makes Paul and I smile each day,” says Pam, whose son entered Grade 9 at SMCS in 2018. “The beep, beep, beep as it backs into the driveway at 6:45 a.m. starts William’s school day. So far, he has had a successful start at St. Michael’s and the bus ride has been a big factor,” she says.
The Robson and Patricio families met each other through elementary school, sports, and their neighbourhood.
“When William saw how much his friends liked the school, he asked to go to
St. Michael’s. We were very reluctant. Not because of the school, but because Lorne Park (Mississauga) is five minutes away from our house and we believed the hour-long GO train and subway commute would take a toll on him,” says Pam.
“When Richard and Gloria told us they were thinking of getting a bigger vehicle to drive the group of boys, we could not believe it. We thought we had won the commute lottery! A daily pick up and drop off was unheard of. Amazing!”
And while scheduling adjustments have been necessary to accommodate the new routine, Pam says the benefits trump everything. “Yes, William and the boys do have to wake up earlier than others, complete their homework a bit later, and manage their late night sports, but when you like something, you are willing to push yourself a little harder.”
THIRD STOP: HYLAND FAMILY
Fittingly, a trio of brothers form the third stop on the morning route.
“We have known the Patricio family for years. We were all at the same elementary school,” says Rosalind, mom of boys in grades 7, 9 and 11 at SMCS. “They have been travelling with Richard since they started.”
The family chose St. Michael’s College School first, and were tackling travel when the offer of a ride arrived --- literally at their doorstep. “It certainly has helped the boys and we are forever grateful.”
Rosalind adds, “I think my boys have had to adjust by getting up early. But we think that is a good life lesson. Initially coming into the city was big for them but also a good lesson.”
FOURTH STOP: IANTORNO FAMILY
“Proximity to school was a major consideration,” says Heather, mom of Tobias, a Grade 9 student. “Despite the distance to SMCS, we were drawn to the school and its reputation. We valued the approach we saw taken by SMCS with respect to education, social development, and sports. We decided to apply and if Tobias was accepted, we’d need to figure out the logistics and whether it could work for the family.”
Enter Richard, whom the family had met when their sons played community soccer together as youngsters.
“When Richard heard that we had applied to SMCS for Tobias, he immediately offered to ‘bus’ him along with the other boys he drove to school,” continues Heather. “This was a tremendous offer as we were struggling with how we would manage the drive to and from school.”
So why does he do it? Why does he drive close to 100 kilometres a day through rain, snow and sleet, maneuvering a 10-seater van carefully across major highways, city streets, construction zones and traffic jams, with eight teenage boys in tow, before going to work --- then doing it in reverse come late afternoon?
“Cliché to say it is about the journey, but in this case, it truly is,” says Richard. Being with my sons and the rest of the boys is an enriching experience for me. I get to experience something most parents don’t enjoy and can, first hand, watch them interact and grow for a few hours every day. To hear their conversations straight out of class is priceless whether I participate, or just sit back and observe. It’s truly enjoyable to participate in the extremes of wild laughter and banter or when all eight are asleep on a dark winter morning drive. I consider myself very fortunate that I can schedule my work life in such a way as to spend a few extra hours with them every day.”
He adds, “For the boys, they get to bond with each other and develop their friendships. They also learn some basic social skills, like the importance of being punctual and learn about making sacrifices for others’ schedules. There is an environmental and financial benefit as well to travelling in a group like this, and time savings are huge when added up across each boy.”
His morning journey steering the 10-seat passenger van purchased last summer, concludes downtown, where he jokes “Parking the ‘bus’ around my office was another challenge, but I manage.”
FULL STOP: GRATITUDE
After almost three years of driving the ‘Sauga bus’, Richard is contemplating handing the keys off to the eldest Hyland son, who will be entering Grade 12 in September 2019.
For now, Richard continues to be driven to serve, making an impact on his community in immeasurable, deeply cherished ways.
“He is an amazing positive role model for the boys every day,” says Pam. “Eight boys laughing, snacking, and listening to music makes the commute so much easier. We can never thank him enough for the daily laughs, energy and guidance he provides the boys. Our next son cannot wait to be a part of the ‘Sauga bus’ ride next year!” she says.
Adds Heather, “The benefit to us as parents is incredible. I honestly do not know how we would have managed if not for Richard and Gloria. They have selflessly supported all of the ‘bus’ families to ensure we have an easy and safe way for our children to get to school. They have given of themselves and made our lives so much simpler. They have given us back valuable time for work and family. Richard and Gloria truly exemplify giving and spirit of community.”
For the Patricio family, it all represents a true labour of love, driven by a school which -- almost 30 years later --- continues to deepen its impact on their lives.
“When it comes to St. Michael’s, to me distance and proximity should never be in question,” says Gloria Patricio, the back-up driver when her husband is not available. “I would encourage new parents to look at the school for what it is --- an incredible experience!”