Veterans compete in National Wheelchair Games

By Hans Petersen, Veterans Health Administration

Last year, Navy Veteran Jeff Deleon of Salem, Oregon, signed up for seven events and announced that he planned on taking home seven gold medals.

That’s the spirit of competition that hundreds of Veterans bring each year to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

It’s the 37th year for the event, being held this year in Cincinnati July 17 – 22.

The purpose of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is to provide Veterans with physical disabilities an introductory experience to a variety of wheelchair sports and expose them to the numerous organized wheelchair sports and recreation activities available nationwide.

The games serve to encourage Veterans to become aware of their abilities and potential while promoting a spirit of healthy activity and camaraderie.

The games are presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America with additional support from numerous corporate and community sponsors.

At the games, Veterans compete in:

  • 9-Ball
  • Air Guns
  • Archery
  • Basketball
  • Boccia
  • Bowling
  • Handcycling
  • Field Events
  • Motor Rally
  • Power Soccer
  • Quad Rugby
  • Slalom
  • Softball
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Track
  • Trapshooting
  • Weightlifting

Participation is open to Veterans having spinal cord injuries, amputations, multiple sclerosis or other neurological conditions who require a wheelchair for athletic competition and who are eligible to receive care at a VA medical facility.

Volunteers make it happen

To accommodate the needs of the athletes, more than 3,000 local volunteers are required to assist with all aspects of the games, from helping with transportation to event set-up, water distribution, assistance with meals, and numerous other activities that will help guarantee a successful event.

Quality of life and better health

The games demonstrate the therapeutic value of sports and competition. As presenters of the event, Paralyzed Veterans and the VA are committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities and fostering better health through sports competition.

While past games have produced a number of national and world-class champions, the event also provides opportunities for newly injured Veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other athletes who use wheelchairs.

Since the games began in 1981, thousands of disabled Veterans have enjoyed the health benefits provided by sports participation and have revitalized the spirit of competition within themselves.