XENIA Monday, the Dayton Veterans Wheelchair Sports Team that includes three Greene Countians will benefit from the proceeds when Xenia’s Perkins’ Restaurant & Bakery hosts a fundraiser from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The three local team members are Phil Kearney, of Xenia; Dale Spiller, of Jamestown, and Jackie Tyler, of Spring Valley.
Proceeds will support the team in state and national wheelchair competitions: the Ohio Wheelchair Games on May 17-19, and the 27th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Milwaukee, Wisc., June 19-23. Visit Perkins’ on Monday and receive a plate of three pancakes with each donation.
According to Spiller, “The games give veterans a chance to show the world what they are capable of in an atmosphere of competitiveness, desire and drive, but most of all, tremendous pride.” Entrants must participate from a wheelchair in at least two events, no more than five. The five classes are determined by one’s level of ability.
Kearney, who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and has a spinal cord injury, was a medalist in last year’s state and national games in bowling and hand cycling competitions. The Xenia High School graduate, class of 1976, is a 10-year Army veteran. Spiller is a 14-year Air Force veteran, including service in the Persian Gulf/Desert Storm action. A spinal cord injury left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but he still has an active life: volunteer liaison officer at the Dayton VA Medical Center, softball coach at Greeneview High School, and avid participant in the Games. He participates in softball, table tennis and field events (shot put, javelin and discus). Tyler, a 20-year Army veteran, retired as a lieutenant colonel. She, too, has been diagnosed with MS. Her events are hand cycling, weight lifting and field events.
Participants, all military veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations or neurological problems, compete in events including swimming, table tennis, weightlifting, basketball, bowling, softball, field events and others. Wheelchair sports started after World War II when veterans began playing wheelchair basketball in VA hospitals. Interest spread to other sports Ð bowling, swimming, archery, track and field, for example. In 1980, when the VA established Recreation Therapy Service, wheelchair sports became a therapeutic tool for treating veterans with disabilities.
The first games were organized in 1981 and the event got a big boost in 1985 when the Paralyzed Veterans of America signed on as a co-sponsor with the VA. Today, it is the largest annual wheelchair sporting event in the world, with more than 500 participants from the United States, Puerto Rico and Great Britain, expected in Milwaukee.