Stories

Mount Royal student overcomes life's obstacles

Since the age of 14, Chris Whelan, who is now in his final semester of Justice Studies, has been overcoming obstacles that could have stood in the way of his dreams.

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Whelan and his family recently raised an astonishing $28,080 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada by participating in a run in south Calgary.

In his early teens, Whelan was diagnosed with Colitis, an often debilitating disease that affects the digestive tract, causing severe pain and constant discomfort.

Now, as Whelan prepares to conclude his time at Mount Royal, he’s being recognized for leveraging his challenges to help inspire other students who are facing obstacles in the way of reaching their career aspirations.

For Whelan, attending high school was challenging. The fear of his condition acting up on him was constantly looming and led to him spending a lot of time at home.

“The biggest challenge for me was being afraid of leaving my house because it got so bad most of the time,” says Whelan. “I was afraid of it acting up when I was out with friends or in my car.”

Heading in a new direction

When Whelan decided to move to Calgary to attend Mount Royal from Northern Alberta to pursue his goal of becoming a police officer, that all changed.

“The professors understood my condition, they allowed me to withdraw from classes or switch classes – I could go after class and they would fill me in on what I missed,” says Whelan.

“Mount Royal has gone above and beyond for me.”

Whelan, who has never been a stranger to giving back to the community, has been openly sharing his experience with the Mount Royal community in hopes of helping other students overcome their own challenges.

And he now looks forward to continuing his commitment to the broader Calgary community as a member of the Calgary Police Service upon graduation.

Finding the light in the darkest of times

Where Whelan truly inspires, is in his resilience and perseverance that enabled him to create opportunity out of an unfortunate situation.

During the early years of dealing with his illness, Whelan spent a lot of time stuck at home, but used this as an opportunity to develop his love and aptitude for computers, which he now hopes will eventually position him for a spot on the Cyber Crimes Taskforce with the Calgary Police Service.

Outside of Mount Royal, Whelan and his family recently raised an astonishing $28,080 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada by participating in a run in south Calgary.

It’s because of this commitment to giving back that Whelan was recently awarded the Abbott IBD scholarship for $5000. This scholarship is for outstanding post-secondary students living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Colitis and Crohn's being different two forms of IBD) from Abbott Canada; a health care company researching new cures and remedies for various diseases, including IBD.

An inspiring Mount Royal student, and soon to be alumni — Whelan’s resiliency will carry on as an engaged citizen and with any luck, will soon be protecting us from cyber crime as a member of Calgary’s finest.

“Don’t live with the fear. Follow your career path regardless of abilities or disabilities — you can do anything with the right support,” says Whelan.

— Brendan Greenslade, Dec. 14, 2012