Athlete Village to Boost Engagement at 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Kansas veterans at the 2015 NVWG v2Athletes at the 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Salt Lake City will notice a new feature: the Athlete Village, a central gathering place for Veterans to gather and support one another.

The Athlete Village – in the area adjacent to the exhibit halls of the National Disabled Sports, Recreation and Fitness Expo – will serve as a central gathering place for Veterans to attend medal and awards ceremonies, purchase memorabilia and learn throughout the week about adaptive sports and other opportunities beyond the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

“This is my 23rd year with the Games, and I’ve learned over the years that the Games are not only about the competition,” said Dave Tostenrude, director of the NVWG. “The Games are just one piece of our efforts to support the health and activity of our Veterans, and our goal is that this gathering place will be popular not only for educating them but encouraging them to come together and support one another.”

Medal and awards ceremonies, while traditionally held at specific events, this year will move to the Athlete Village in hopes of generating more spectators. Medals for team events will continue to take place at their respective locations.

“In the past, awards ceremonies often would have few athletes and spectators who came to watch,” said Tom Brown, founder of the NVWG and now consultant for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “The idea is to place these ceremonies in the middle of the Athlete Village in order to boost engagement.”

The Athlete Village also will house the Internet Café, sponsored by HP Enterprises, where Veterans can use one of six computers to access the Internet at any time. A sponsors’ wall also will be featured, as will daily entertainment just outside of the Village location.

“We want our Veterans to be active and engaged,” Brown said. “The Athlete Village is one way we’ll encourage them to do that.”

The 36th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) – co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America – will feature 19 wheelchair sporting events and two exhibition sports for disabled Veterans June 27-July 2, 2016, in Salt Lake City.

Brittany Ballenstedt is a military spouse, freelance journalist and photographer in Washington, D.C.