The motivational speaker appeared at Olds High School on March 22 to share his story of how he overcomes the challenge of being born without limbs to live a rich life.
Wearing a blue T-shirt, tan shorts and a smile, Koch wheeled into the OHS Commons on a longboard. He proceeded to tell the crowd of about 70 people how his grandmother set the tone early for how his family would view his disability.
When she first heard her grandson was born healthy, but without arms or legs, she joked his father “never finished what he started,” Koch said.
From then on, Koch said he’s lived his life with good humour and independence. He farms in Nanton. He drives the tractor and does all the work without assistive technology. His apartment doesn’t look any different from any other, he said. The theme of his speech is, “If I Can …”
From a physical standpoint, growing up without limbs was easy, Koch said. He never knew what it was like to have arms, legs and fingers so he adapted to his environment naturally.
“Sometimes I wonder how you move all that,” he told the audience, getting a chuckle.
He also tried prosthetic limbs but prefers not to use them. One reason was the time it took to put them on and take them off.
“God, I look good but I can’t wait to kick off my legs,” he said.
Koch has travelled to every continent except for Africa and Antarctica. He’s working on that, as well as a travel show he hopes to sell to a broadcaster.
He’s also active, participating in skiing, snowboarding, golfing, bungee jumping and more. He has also hiked to the first base camp of Mount Everest.
Koch said he believes he would not have been as adventurous had he been born with arms and legs. He implored the audience to chase their dreams because if he can do so, so can they.
“Be more afraid of regret than failure,” he said. “I did as much as I possibly could and had a great time doing it.”
Koch first caught the attention of Nolan Layden and Avery Petersen, a pair of Grade 9 students, at the Junior Student Leadership Conference in November. They were among 10 Olds High School students who attended the conference in Innisfail.
When students were asked about the highlight of the event, more than half listed Koch, so they asked OHS teacher and guidance counsellor Louan Statchuk to invite him to Olds.
Speaking in the middle of first-period gym class, Layden said he was inspired by how much Koch could do without limbs.
Both say his story has changed them.
For Petersen, she said she has a greater appreciation for active living. Layden said Koch’s life has led him to take a closer look at people’s character.
“I did as much as I possibly could and had a great time doing it.” CHRIS KOCH