Kids Day Inspires Next Generation

19078468846_a16815222f_o

2-year old Clara enjoying Kids Day in Dallas

Nearly two dozen children with disabilities gathered Tuesday to be mentored by veterans who are experienced wheelchair athletes and whose lives are a testament to what can be achieved in spite of a disability.

Kids Day—held as part of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Dallas—is now in its 15th year. After being led in cadences and warm-up exercises, the kids were cheered on through three events: slalom—a challenging obstacle course for wheelchair athletes—T-ball and basketball.

Dr. Ken Lee, medical director for the NVWG, returned to his iconic role as emcee for the event. Kids Day is one of the most exciting times for the athletes,” he said. “It’s not just about competition at that point; it’s about bringing the future into the competition.”

This year’s Kids Day also welcomed its youngest participant in the history of the event—and the first ever to compete in a standing wheelchair: a 2-year-old named Carla, who confidently wheeled herself around the slalom course and T-ball field.

“This gives her an opportunity to see other kids who are in a similar situation to what she’s in,” said Carla’s dad, Joey. “Most of the kids she’s around are not in wheelchairs, so it’s great for her to be exposed to this.”

Enrique Lopez, whose father, Enrique Sr., is a paralyzed veteran competing this year, smiled as the audience cheered him through various events. ““The more we can improve his life, the more functional he becomes.”

Kids Day is about more than giving disabled children an opportunity to see what’s possible: It’s also about inspiring veteran athletes to take what they see and learn at the event and pay it forward.

“I always try to tell our mentors that they’re continuing their service by providing inspiration and giving back to the community,” said Sheila Skipper, associate director of public relations and outreach for Paralyzed Veterans of America, who works with VA to coordinate Kids Day annually. “I always try to involve older mentors who have participated in the program and also introduce it to some younger ones so they can go back and share this with their communities back home.”

Twila Adams, a paralyzed Army veteran who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in Kuwait and Iraq, never stopped serving after she left her 11-year Army career in 1991. She began providing mobile manicures, pedicures and Reiki to the sick, seniors and individuals with disabilities confined to their homes. A car accident in 1994 caused quadriplegia, but her desire to help others did not wane, and said she feels now that wants to inspire children who live with many of the same challenges she has faced for more than 20 years.

“It was an honor to serve as a Kids Day mentor,” she said. “This was a first for me, and I’m excited about serving again. I am still on cloud nine from meeting all of the awesome children and their families.”

For Lee, Kids Day is also about educating and inspiring the audience and local community that a disability does not mean a child, veteran or any adult lacks the ability to live a quality life.

“When we look at these kids, we may feel sorry for them for being in that situation at first, but when we see them going through the challenges and obstacles of sports, that all vanishes,” he said. “It enables a lot of people to look past the disability and see all of the things these kids are able to do.”

 

Brittany Ballenstedt is a military spouse, freelance journalist and photographer in Wichita Falls, Texas.

 

Beat the Heat: How to Stay Cool in Dallas

Dallas is known for its tall buildings, an airport so massive it has its own ZIP code, and an NFL team that boasts fans all across the country. But June 21-26, when the National Veterans Wheelchair Games10e3e0c7-8f14-44c3-8033-e6c0f20125b9_463x347 come to Dallas, there is one thing about the big city that may be a challenge for wheelchair athletes – the heat.

“What’s most unique about the Games this year is it’s going to be hot,” said Tom Brown, director of the NVWG for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Dallas is known for its heat.”

Temperatures in Dallas the week of the Games are projected to be in the low-to-mid 90s. The high temperatures, combined with the potential for high humidity, could make wheelchair athletes – particularly those with high-level quadriplegia and paraplegia – susceptible to Poikilothermia, or the inability to regulate core body temperature.

“Depending on the level of injury, a spinal cord injury patient may not sweat,” said Dr. Kenneth Lee, medical director of the NVWG. “This causes their internal temperature to keep rising.”

In anticipation of the hot temperatures, coordinators of this year’s Games scheduled outdoor events from roughly 8 a.m. to noon, when temperatures are typically lower, and indoor events during the hotter temperatures in the afternoon, Brown said.

Still, temperatures are sure to be hot throughout the day, and wheelchair athletes will need to take precautions to ensure proper body temperature regulation, Lee said. One of the best ways to do so is by staying hydrated – both before and after competition, he said.

“Often, athletes think they are OK if they drink a lot of water after their event, but it’s important to hydrate prior to loosen their muscles and keep them hydrated,” Lee said.

Lee also emphasized the importance of athletes carrying around water bottles and sipping water continuously throughout the day. “While water and ice will be available, athletes should be sipping on water all day long, rather than drinking a large amount of water at one time,” he said.

Wheelchair athletes also should abstain from alcohol and seek shade and/or indoor air-conditioned locations as much as possible, Lee said. Volunteers will be present at all events to mist athletes with spray bottles, and towels will be provided at all locations for athletes to wet with cold water and place over their heads and/or shoulders, he added.

The only outdoor event that will take place after noon throughout the week will be the rowing exhibition on Monday, Brown said, so the more than 70 wheelchair athletes signed up for that event will need to take seriously the need to stay hydrated, keep their skin cool and moist and seek shade as much as possible.

Wheelchair athletes who find themselves experiencing symptoms of hyperthermia — namely dizziness, weakness, nausea or lack of coordination – should seek help from a nurse who can be identified by a white t-shirt with a red cross, Lee said.

“Our veterans need to know that they need to seek shade and get their skin wet, so they should take advantage of the volunteers misting them with water bottles,” Lee said. “If they’re not feeling well, they should reach out to a roaming nurse who can provide appropriate medical care or advice.”

 

Brittany Ballenstedt is a military spouse, freelance journalist and photographer in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize Veterans Canteen Service as a National Host Sponsor of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    
June 17, 2015
Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs are proud to recognize Veterans Canteen Service as one of the National Host Sponsors of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21-26 in Dallas, Texas.

“We thank Veterans Canteen Service for supporting our nation’s disabled veterans each year at this important rehabilitative event,” said Al Kovach, Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “It’s because of the generous support we receive from sponsors like Veterans Canteen Service that we are able to make the Games a success.”

This year marks the 15th year that Veterans Canteen Service will sponsor the National Veterans Wheelchair Games—the largest annual wheelchair multi-sports event in the world. Veterans Canteen Service will also serve as one of the event host sponsors for the air pistol competition and the annual athlete Block Party.

“VA’s Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) is proud to be a Platinum Sponsor for the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games,” said Ray Tober, Executive Director Veterans Canteen Service.  “We are honored to be involved in an event promoting a healthy lifestyle and inspiring our Nation’s Veterans to challenge themselves, whether spiritually, mentally or physically.  The VCS team looks forward to seeing our athletes’ competitive drive and determination to achieve excellence.”

With 200 locations throughout VA Medical Centers across the United States, VCS operates modernized retail stores, café’s and vending programs. VCS considers their motto “Benefits You’ve Earned, Service You Deserve” as the impetus for providing exceptional quality and value with the highest level of customer service.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nations Veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, Director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Wheelchair Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

 

 

 

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize UPS as a National Host Sponsor of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                              
June 17, 2015    
Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667

 

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs are proud to recognize The UPS Foundation as one of the National Host Sponsors for the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The UPS Foundation, based in Atlanta, has been a supporter of the Games since 1986. Once the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games conclude, nearly 500 UPS employees would have provided logistical support behind the scenes, at the airport, as well as at the sporting events. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21-26 in Dallas, Texas.

“UPS has been an integral part of making the National Veterans Wheelchair Games a success each year,” said Al Kovach, Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We thank UPS for their continued generous support of the Games and of our veteran wheelchair athletes.”

This marks the 29th year that UPS will sponsor the National Veterans Wheelchair Games—the largest annual wheelchair multi-sports event in the world. Over the past 29 years, more than 4,000 UPS employees have contributed their time to assist the athletes with their equipment and chairs—providing logistical support for them. UPS will also serve as the event host sponsor for the slalom / super “G” competitions.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nations Veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, Director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Wheelchair Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

The UPS Foundation:

Since its founding in 1907, UPS® (NYSE:UPS) has built a legacy as a caring and responsible corporate citizen, supporting programs that provide long-term solutions to community needs. The UPS Foundation, founded in 1951, is responsible for facilitating community involvement in local, national and global communities. In 2014 UPS and its employees, active and retired, invested more than $104 million and contributed more than 1.8 million hours of volunteer time globally. The UPS Foundation can be found on the web at ups.com/foundation.

 

 

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize Invacare as National Host Sponsor of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2015
Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667
                                                            

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs are proud to recognize Invacare as one of the National Host Sponsors, and the Official Wheelchair of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Invacare has generously supported the Games since its inception in 1981. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21-26 in Dallas, Texas.

“Invacare has been there from the beginning, supporting the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and our veteran wheelchair athletes,” said Al Kovach, Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We thank them for being part of the Wheelchair Games family and for their generous support that helps make the Games possible each year.”

In addition to monetary support, Invacare helps with many needs from providing assistance at the airport with off-loading veteran athletes, assisting with their wheelchairs and luggage to wheelchair maintenance throughout the Games, to collecting and delivering luggage to the airport at the finish of the Games and loading wheelchair equipment as veterans leave to go home. Invacare will also serve as the event host sponsor for the handcycling and basketball competition.

Invacare is proud to support the National Veterans Wheelchair Games where athletes embody Invacare’s ‘Yes, You Can’ spirit in everything they do—from their past service to this country to their athleticism at the Games. We are honored to support these athletes and their participation in this great event,” said Matthew E. Monaghan, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Invacare Corporation.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nations Veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, Director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Wheelchair Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

About Invacare

Invacare Corporation (NYSE:IVC), headquartered in Elyria, Ohio, is a global leader in the manufacture and distribution of innovative home and long-term care medical products that promote recovery and active lifestyles. The Company has 4,900 associates and markets its products in approximately 100 countries around the world. For more information about the Company and its products, visit Invacare’s website at www.invacare.com.

 

 

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize Sustaining Host and Platinum Sponsors of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                 
June 18, 2015
Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667           

 

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are proud to recognize the sustaining host and platinum-level sponsors of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Permobil and Toyota are this year’s sustaining host sponsors, and Cisco Systems, the DeGasperis Family Foundation, HP, Highmark/United Concordia, Leidos, Quantum Rehab and Xerox Foundation are platinum sponsors of the event. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21–26 in Dallas.

“Each year hundreds of veterans with disabilities benefit from their participation in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games,” said Al Kovach Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans. “We owe a huge thanks to all of our sustaining host and platinum-level sponsors who help make the Games possible with their generous support.”

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans and VA, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nation’s veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

 

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

 

 

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize the Dallas Sports Commission as a National Host Sponsor of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      
June 16, 2015

Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are proud to recognize the Dallas Sports Commission as one of the national host sponsors of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21–26 in Dallas.

“We thank the Dallas Sports Commission for welcoming us to their city and supporting the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and our veteran athletes,” said Al Kovach Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans. “Our national host sponsors provide a tremendous amount of support to the event and it’s because of their support that the Games are possible.”

As a national host sponsor, the Dallas Sports Commission has provided invaluable assistance to the Games locally and will serve as an event host sponsor for the boccia and power soccer competitions.

“It’s an honor for the Dallas Sports Commission and the City of Dallas to host the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games,” said Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission.  “We look forward to welcoming our veteran athletes and delivering a great Dallas experience for them.”

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans and VA, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nation’s veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Wheelchair Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

 

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

 

About the Dallas Sports Commission:

The Dallas Sports Commission (dallassports.org) pursues amateur, grassroots, collegiate and professional championship events, positioning Dallas as the premier sports destination.  A division of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Dallas Sports Commission focuses on generating economic impact as well as improving the quality of life within the community through sports.   Among the future events the Dallas Sports Commission will host are the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games, WrestleMania 32 in 2016 and the 2017 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

 

 

Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs Recognize American Airlines as Premier Sponsor of 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                             
June 16, 2015
Contact: Lani Poblete
202-416-7667

 

Washington, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are proud to recognize American Airlines as the premier sponsor and the official airline of the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. More than 600 veterans are expected to compete in this year’s Games, scheduled for June 21–26 in Dallas.

American Airlines has really stepped up to support the Games and our wheelchair athletes,” said Al Kovach Jr., national president of Paralyzed Veterans. “Each year hundreds of veterans with disabilities benefit from participation in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, thanks to the generous support of sponsors like American Airlines.”

As Premier Sponsor of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, American has donated 2.5 million American Airlines AAdvantage Miles to assist with travel costs for qualifying veteran athletes and support staff. In addition, American will serve as an host sponsor for the quad rugby and weightlifting competitions.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, presented annually by Paralyzed Veterans and VA, are open to all U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition as a result of spinal cord injury, certain neurological conditions, amputations or other mobility impairments, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.

“The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represents a significant commitment to the rehabilitation of our nations veterans and empowering them to live more healthy and active lives through sports and recreation. The partnership with our sponsors to fulfill our mission, especially American Airlines, helps us to reach out and support more of our nation’s heroes,” said David Tostenrude, director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Veterans at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games will compete in 18 events: air guns, archery, basketball, boccia, bowling, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, trapshooting and weightlifting. This year’s Games will also feature a rowing exhibition. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.

For more information about the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

###

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to serving veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure benefits, quality health care, accessibility, employment, and rehabilitative sports and recreation for veterans with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (www.pva.org)

 

About the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is the recognized world leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies for disabled Veterans. VA promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit by operating adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs and partnerships at www.va.gov/adaptivesports.

 

“Big City, Big Wheels, Big Hearts” – Dallas Prepares for the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

dallas_skylineThe saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” may well ring true June 21-26, 2015, when the 35th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) come to Dallas, this time with the highest number of veteran participants in the history of the Games.

The size of this year’s Games – which are slated to draw more than 650 veteran athletes and more than 100 coaches – aligns with this year’s “big” theme – “Big City, Big Wheels, Big Hearts.”

“Big things happen in Dallas,” said Glendon Bentley, executive director of the Lone Star Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “If all of the veteran athletes who signed this year show up, this will be the largest National Veterans Wheelchair Games in the history of the Games.”

This year’s theme – which plays off of the city’s “Big Things Happen Here” campaign – was selected from submissions from Paralyzed Veterans of America members and Department of Veterans Affairs staff. Accompanying the “Big City, Big Wheels, Big Hearts” motto will be a western theme weaved into events throughout the week, Bentley said.

The Games kick off at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on Sunday, June 21, with afternoon events featuring a variety of sports clinics for athletes to try power soccer, wheelchair basketball, quad rugby and table tennis. Evening opening ceremonies will feature the presentation of colors by the Lone Star Chapter’s wheelchair Honor Guard – the only wheelchair Honor Guard team in the United States – followed by an address by paralyzed Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“The VA North Texas Health Care system has been fantastic in putting a great program together for us,” said David Tostenrude, Games director for the VA. “We’ve also had an incredible amount of support from our partners in the city and business community.”

Monday’s track and field events will open at Southern Methodist University with a parachute demonstration by Army veteran and double amputee Dana Bowman, who was injured in a training accident with the Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights, in 1994.

“Dallas is a typical big city, but it has excellent venues as far as a convention center and SMU – better venues than some we’ve had in the past,” said Tom Brown, Games director for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “What will make Dallas unique this year are the exhibition sports – rowing, table tennis, fencing and biathlon.”

The VA launched the Games in Richmond, Va., in 1981 to support its efforts to promote the rehabilitative value of wheelchair sports. Paralyzed Veterans of America signed on as a co-sponsor of the Games in 1985, and the Games have since grown, both in number of competitors as well as the variety of sports offered.

“What an incredible accomplishment for both organizations to have made this long commitment to support veterans’ health through sports and recreation,” Tostenrude said.

Still, while the variation of sports and equipment and number of veterans participating has changed, the one constant has been the influence seasoned veteran participants have over the novice athletes, Tostenrude added. This year, more than 140 veteran athletes are slated to participate for the first time, he said.

“Things have changed over the years, but the one constant is the novice influence and the peer support that returning veterans bring,” Tostenrude said. “That’s what these programs are all about.”

Also growing year-to-year is the involvement of national associations that enable veterans to get more involved in sports and recreation at home, Tostenrude said. “This involvement continues to grow so that the Games are not just a one-time-a-year opportunity but really a bridge to get veterans more active at home,” he said.

Above all, Brown emphasized the importance of the sponsors and volunteers who give so graciously to the Games each year. “Without the sponsors and volunteers, the Games would not happen,” he said. “That’s the glue that holds the Games together year after year. The local organizing committee and the Lone Star chapter have gone out of their way to cover every item this year.”

 

Brittany Ballenstedt is a military spouse, freelance journalist and photographer in Wichita Falls, Texas.