Mary Kate Callahan speaks to St. Francis students for Ability Awareness Speaker Series

LA GRANGE — Mary Kate Callahan, a senior at Fenwick High School in Oak Park, was a guest speaker March 11 at St. Francis Xavier School.

Callahan, with the help of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the disability advocacy group Equip for Equality, sued the Illinois High School Sports Association to allow student athletes with disabilities to compete at the state level.

Callahan spoke with students in sixth through eighth grade classes as part of the Ability Awareness Speaker series. Callahan lost the use of her legs as an infant due to a rare neurological disease.

Despite this, Callahan is part of Fenwick's swimming and track teams and competes in international triathlons. She spoke with students about her motivations as an athlete and her recent accomplishments.

Students were encouraged by her story.

"She inspired me to do more triathlons and fight for what you want. Her story about her swimming battle with the IHSA is amazing," said student Johnny Walls.

Callahan told students that everyone has some sort of disability, only hers is more noticeable because she uses a wheelchair. She left kids with a line that inspires her most, "Never, never, never give up."

Callahan is clearly one athlete who has taken that line to heart.