There was barely a dry eye in the house when Irish Wheelchair Association’s Pat Whelan was named the 2023 Laois Unsung Hero at a glittering awards ceremony hosted by Laois County Council recently. 

The well-deserved accolade is a testament to Pat’s enormous courage, kindness and selflessness towards helping others, having overcome his own challenges.   

Pat’s life changed in 2015 when he became a wheelchair user, after happily spending his life working in the building industry.  He did not let this deter him but fought to regain some independence in order to help others and in doing so has become a champion for people with disabilities which led to the honour of being awarded  the Laois Unsung Hero for 2023.

He became involved in IWA in Portlaoise first as a member, then as a volunteer and now works on our CE scheme. 

Sylvia Rouget, the IWA Service Co-ordinator in Portlaoise, couldn’t contain her excitement and delight when Pat’s name was called out 

Speaking afterwards she said. “Pat is a huge source of inspiration and a huge support to me and our members.” 

“He completed his level 5 in healthcare and lots of modules in IT as well as youth work training. He became extremely unwell 3 to 4 years ago and we are incredibly lucky that he survived. He again fought to get better and as soon as he returned to our centre he dedicated his days to helping everyone and setting up fundraising activities so that others could go on outings or to buy equipment for the centre. 

“He became the chair of our service users committee and the face of our service, attending meetings and consultations with all local agencies. In 2022 he became a volunteer with us and in 2023 we invited him to join our CE scheme. He is supposed to work 19.5 hours a week but comes in most days to support the service.  He has set up activities for other disability services and for older people’s groups in his own time. He advocates constantly for others in the kindest of manners and never expects anything in return. If anything, he hates praise.” 

Pat has become known for his advocacy for people with disabilities. 

Sylvia said:  “Everyone in the county council knows Pat, every councillor as he presented on several occasions in the chamber and many of the staff who consult him on a regular basis regarding accessibility, along with a few other of our members. There was not a dry eye on the night which shows the respect people have for him.” 

Congratulations Pat from all in Irish Wheelchair Association and thank you for all you do.