The National Veterans Wheelchair Games presents the Spirit of the Games Award at the conclusion of each year’s event to the Veteran that through their athletic achievement, leadership and support of their fellow Veterans exemplifies the values of the Games. This summer, Ardrena Bailey, an Army Veteran from Washington DC, demonstrated that whether excelling in sports or powering through the adversities of everyday life, she is an optimist and inspiration to others. Ardrena is a fierce competitor on the court and equally so supporting her teammates and celebrating their successes.
Ms. Bailey was first diagnosed with MS in 1990. By 1996, Ardrena was using a wheelchair full-time. “My physical losses related to MS not only impacted my mobility, but the rest of my life. I didn’t engage with people and stayed to myself.” In 1997, Ardrena first met Pam Gorman, a recreation therapist, at the VA in Washington DC and was introduced to adaptive sports. She had not been into sports since high school, but was motivated to get her life together, and sports created a new beginning. It’s been 20 years and Ardrena lives to go to the NVWG each year. “Since going to my first NVWG in San Diego, I have met so many others in the same situation as me. It’s like I have a whole new family!”
Ms. Bailey recommends several strategies that have worked for her to stay active. “One, I schedule my day to work with my body so I don’t get too fatigued. I know now how much I can do before I get tired. Two, I make sure my medications are working right. I work with my neurologist to make sure my meds are doing what they need to. And three, I have the right equipment. I use a cooling vest and cooling towel so I can stay active.” The message she would like to get to anyone living with MS who is frustrated, feeling alone or not sure where to begin is “Don’t give up!” Find someone to talk with or reach out to the MS Society. Explore what you are interested in. There is something out there for you. This coming year, Ardrena is getting a handcycle and looking forward to training and competing in the 10K cycling event to add to her bowling, boccia and field events. Her biggest challenge now is finding a place for her awards and sports equipment at home.
If your condition is impacting your mobility, strength, endurance and/or balance reach out to your VA recreation therapist, physical therapist or other rehabilitation professional to get started in sports or a fitness program. Wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment allow you to compensate for these situations and enable you to participate at a higher level. You don’t need to use a wheelchair full time. Getting involved in fitness and activity is the best medicine and will make a difference in your daily life! The 2018 National Veterans Wheelchair Games is in Orlando, Florida, July 30 – August 4. There are 19 medal sports and it’s guaranteed you’ll find something to connect. For more information on the Games or help to get started, contact Dave Tostenrude, Director, National Veterans Wheelchair Games at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you in Orlando!