Students told to live life to the fullest

Okotoks: Nanton man with no arms, legs shares message at Big Rock School

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Jan 17, 2014 11:18 am

Nanton resident Chris Koch speaks to students at Big Rock School in Okotoks on Jan. 10 about living life to the fullest and the importance of independence.
Nanton resident Chris Koch speaks to students at Big Rock School in Okotoks on Jan. 10 about living life to the fullest and the importance of independence.
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Not having any arms or legs doesn’t stop a Nanton man from living out his dreams and he told a group of Okotoks students last week they shouldn’t let anything get in the way of achieving theirs.

“Live life, have fun and set the bar high,” said Chris Koch. “Life’s too short, there’s too much out there to experience and do to not do as much as you can.”

Koch was born without arms or legs, he doesn’t have forearms or hands and he has a partial leg on his right side.

Koch was invited to speak to students at Big Rock School on June 10 as part of the school’s Characteristics of Responsible Learners speaker series. The series involves speeches on several topics, including confidence, respect and work habits.

Koch spoke about the importance of developing independence.

It’s something he learned at an early age, developing a strong independent streak despite his disability.

He said his parents didn’t help him much while he was growing up so he would learn how to do things on his own. He said he learned the value of patience and that it takes time and perseverance to do things.

“If you fall down, get back up and brush yourself off,” he said.

Koch challenges the students to live up to his motto, ‘If I can…’ to go out and experience as much as they can with their lives.

“I don’t like hearing people say I can’t,” he said. “They should say I can.”

Koch said it’s about making the most of the situations you’re in and doing it with a smile.

“There’s too many people that just are miserable in life,” he said. “You can do anything if you have a smile on your face.”

Koch leads an active life, speaking professionally and working in agriculture driving tractors, combines and ATVs to help move cattle on a farm.

He enjoys sports and skis, snowboards and wake surfs. He also loves to travel and spent three months in Europe on his own spending time in England, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. He has been to Brazil and he’s going leaving to go to Australia for six weeks in the middle of February.

Koch said he doesn’t want to have any regrets that he didn’t at least try to do different things.

Koch rides a skateboard to get around and he hopes to be able to drive soon, using a car that is being specially rigged for him to control. He also has a couple tools he uses to make it easier to do certain tasks, including a small hook he can hold in one arm to grab things and a special holder to make it easier to use utensils to eat and cook.

Koch used artificial limbs when he was growing up, but he doesn’t any more.

“It’s just the simplicity of it,” he said. “When I’d wake up in the morning and put on my artificial legs, it was an extra 10, 15 sometimes 20 minutes if something went wrong in the morning and it took some energy to put them on.”

While it was easier to get around with artificial legs, he said there were still limitations. For example, when walking up stairs using his artificial legs, Koch still needs a wall or handrail to lean on.

He said he can go virtually anywhere with his skateboard and, where he can’t, he can still hop and climb stairs easily without his artificial limbs.

Last year, he climbed all 802 steps to the top of the Calgary Tower in 24 minutes to raise money for the Calgary Zoo after last year’s floods. He then went on to climb the stairs in the CN tower in Toronto in 50 minutes.

The chairman of the school’s parent council invited Koch to speak to show the students they can do anything.

“I just hope they’re not afraid to try things now and it inspires them to take on challenges they thought might have been above their head,” said Jamie McGregor, chairman of the school’s parent council.

He wanted to bring Koch to the school. McGregor saw the impact Koch’s message has on young people after his own son saw him speak.

“My son had seen Chris two years ago at Percy Pegler and he still talks about it,” he said.

To learn more about Koch, visit


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