April 23, 2013

The bond of this family is WellockStrong

Few things are as strong as the bond between a parent and child. After what CUA sophomore Chris Wellock and his father Bill have had to endure recently, that bond is now unbreakable.

A 1981 graduate of Catholic University, Bill Wellock was in a traumatic bicycle accident during the summer of 2012. It happened on July 26 and has changed his, and his family's lives, forever.

Chris came home and found a note on the counter that his father had been in an accident while biking. As time wore on, Chris continued to receive more information on the severity of the accident.

Ryan McDonough, a senior defender at CUA, lives near Wellock in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania and has been close with the Wellock family for as long as he can remember. Coincidently, McDonough's father, who also grew up in Wyomissing, lived in the house that the Wellock's now own. In fact, Ryan's father had the same exact bedroom that Chris now calls his own.

Upon hearing of the accident, McDonough quickly made his way over to the Wellock household, to help comfort his friend.

"I kept receiving text message updates from my parents explaining what had happened and how Mr. Wellock was doing."

Unfortunately, the news was incredibly tough to take. Bill Wellock had sustained life-threatening injuries so severe that his cardiac surgeon stated, "only 5% of people survive these types of injuries."

Miraculously, Mr. Wellock was in that 5% and he survived. However, the injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Chris, who has always had a very strong relationship with his father, shares his thoughts on when he heard the news. "Of course, I was extremely sad. I immediately thought of all the things we couldn't do anymore. But I knew that if anyone could make it through something like this, it was my dad."

McDonough adds his thoughts. "Chris is like a brother to me; we're extremely tight and have been for years. Our families are incredibly close, too, so it was tough on all of us."

CUA Head Coach Brooks Singer reached out to Chris the day after the accident to check in on his sophomore midfielder. "Obviously you feel for the family and want to do anything you can to help," Singer explains. "I was scared initially, but once Mr. Wellock made it through the surgery, I started to feel more positive. I knew we had to support Chris and his family in anyway possible."

He continues, "It's unfortunate when something terrible like this happens to such a great family. But Chris and his entire family have handled it in such a wonderful manner. I know they're going to continue to take this experience and turn it into a positive."

Once Chris returned to campus in August, he came up with the idea to hold the WellockStrong Capitol Dash near the steps of the US Capitol. The event took place in November, and featured over 100 runners, including the entire CUA team. Countless supporters got behind the event as well, and donated over $15,000 in support of the Wellock family.

"Coach Singer, Ryan and I wanted to put together a fundraiser, so we began contacting people to get them involved. Lots of friends of our family came down and it was great to see so much support."

"Chris has been amazing through this entire experience," Singer said. "He's a very mature and positive young man."

"I always knew Chris was a tough kid," McDonogh explains. "But this has re-established that belief and proven his resiliency."

In addition to McDonough and Singer, Wellock credits his housemates, Jack Firriolo, Matt Cirieco, Dan McCallan and John Sullivan, for helping him pull through when times are tough.

"Being at CUA has been great for me. The support shown to my family, and especially for my dad, has been tremendous. I couldn't ask to be at a better place."

"We try and instill certain principles in our students at Catholic University," Singer explains. "Bill Wellock experienced that when he went here, and now Chris is experiencing it. We should all be so lucky that if we were to endure something like this (accident), to have people like we have at this university to be around us and support one another."

Bill Wellock has always been very active, and it doesn't sound like he has plans to change that lifestyle now. "He's in good spirits," Chris explains. "He's the same person, very positive. He's been doing his rehab, going to a cross-fit gym and working out with a trainer, lifting weights at home and is hoping to begin transitioning back to work soon. At some point, he wants to begin riding a hand bike."

When asked what this experience has taught him, Chris replies, "It's made me more mature and brought our family even closer than we were before. You learn to not take the little things for granted."

He adds, "My dad has done a great job of staying focused on the things he can do, rather than what he can't. My family now understands that we can't dwell on the initial reaction of being sad and shocked. We have to be excited for what's coming in the future."

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