Maui community rallies to help a 2-time Olympian find his stolen memorabilia
WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two-time U.S. Olympian Vernon Patao was in the process of moving when he learned that some of his belongings stored at a friend’s house were stolen Tuesday night.
“I was at the gym coaching and the guy who owns the house where I was storing all of my stuff, he called me up and said a bunch of my stuff was taken, like the majority of my stuff,” said Patao, an Olympic weightlifter.
That “stuff” was precious, prized possessions like photos and his jackets from the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
Patao said this is the second time his Olympic memorabilia was stolen.
“In 1996 after I came back from the Olympic Games, the place where I was renting got broken into, and they stole my Olympic rings from ’92 and ’96,” Patao said.
When he found out his belongings were stolen again, Patao didn’t want to make a big deal about it — one of the things people on Maui respect most about Patao is his humility.
But, his friends convinced him that the missing mementos were not just special to him — but they were special to the entire Maui community.
One of Patao’s friends posted his story on social media, and he woke up to dozens of phone calls and text messages of people wanting to help him.
“It’s pretty cool to see our community come together,” he said. “Even with the Olympic Games, that’s one thing. But it took more than myself, it took coaches, it took my parents, it took the community for me to get there.”
“So when people reached out to me and said, ‘We’re going to help you recover some of these things because we’re gonna share with my kids and grandkids later on,’ I was pretty stoked with that,” he said.
Patao’s belongings haven’t been recovered yet.
While those things are irreplaceable, Patao wants to use his story of becoming an Olympian as a reminder to inspire others to work hard and dream big.
“Weightlifting is just a platform for me to share all these basic fundamentals that my parents and mentors taught me: respect, work hard, have integrity — really, that’s the baseline of what we teach.”
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