WASHINGTON, DC – More than 600 veterans with disabilities have signed up to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games taking place July 13-18, 2009, in Spokane, WA. Now in its 29th year, the event has grown to become the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. This year’s competitors come from 42 states, Puerto Rico and Great Britain.
“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are sports and rehabilitation at their best for our brave heroes,” said Randy L. Pleva, Sr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “From quad rugby to handcycling, power soccer to wheelchair slalom, the Games are an exciting combination of competition, camaraderie and courage.”
The Wheelchair Games, co-presented each year by Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, certain neurological conditions, amputations, traumatic brain injuries or other mobility impairments and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers. The Northwest Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans and the Spokane VA Medical Center are hosting the 2009 Games.
Sports are an important aspect of the therapy programs used to treat many disabilities. For many injured veterans, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games provide their first exposure to wheelchair athletics. At the Games, veterans will compete in 17 different sports: air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field, handcycling, nine ball, a motorized wheelchair relay, power soccer, quad rugby, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting, weightlifting and wheelchair slalom. For the third year, stand-up events will be held in archery and table tennis for athletes who have amputations and choose to compete using prosthetic devices instead of their wheelchairs. A golf clinic will also be held as an exhibition sport this year.
The 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games begin July 13 with a wheelchair basketball demonstration outside the Spokane Convention Center, as well as the 2009 Disabled Sports, Recreation and Fitness Expo. Kids Day at the Games takes place July 17 at Spokane Falls Community College, where local children with disabilities will meet the athletes and learn about wheelchair sports. Track and field events, softball and archery will also take place at the college.
This year’s opening ceremonies will be held at Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, while closing ceremonies are at the Spokane Convention Center, where many of the week’s competitive events will take place. A special block party for the athletes and their guests will be held on July 15 at C.I. Shenanigans on the Spokane riverfront.
Other events will be held at Lilac Lanes, North Bowl, Esmeralda Golf Course, Whitworth University, the Spokane Gun Club and other area venues. Admission is free to the public, and the community is encouraged to attend.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is made possible in part through the generous support of the following lead sponsors: National Host: Invacare Corporation; Local Host: Veterans Canteen Service; Sustaining Host: UPS Foundation; National: The Budin Family, The DeGasperis Family Foundation, Health Net Federal Services, Inc., HP, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc., Spokane Transit Authority, Sprint, The ROHO Group, TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Xerox Foundation.
The theme for this year’s event is “Rollin’ on the River,” and the veterans attending the Games in Spokane are ready to do just that. For more information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, or to follow event results as they happen, visit the Games website.