More than 500 of America's best wheelchair athletes, all disabled U.S. military Veterans, have arrived in Richmond, Va., for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games being held June 25-30.
"The Games display to the world what we already know about these Veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "At this competition and during their rehabilitation throughout the year, they show the same determination and grit that they showed during their service to our Nation."
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) present the games each year. They are a multi-event sports rehabilitation program open to U.S. military Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems, and who receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers.
"The National Veterans Wheelchair Games started in the city of Richmond whose motto is 'Thus do we reach the stars.' As the Games return to the city this year, I know they will inspire everyone -- athletes and spectators alike -- to reach for the stars, to overcome adversity, and to reach their full potential," said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Sports are important in the therapy used to treat many disabilities. For many injured Veterans, the games provide their first exposure to wheelchair athletics. VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies, and operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 152 medical centers.
The first National Veterans Wheelchair Games was held in 1981, the "International Year of Disabled Persons," at the VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va. That year, 74 Veterans from 14 states competed in sports ranging from table tennis and billiards, to swimming and weightlifting. 2012 marks the first time the event has returned to its birthplace in Richmond.
This year's games begin Monday, June 25 at 11:30 a.m. with a demonstration at the Virginia State Capital, 1000 Bank Street, Richmond, Va. Kids day at the games takes place Wednesday, June 28, 2012, where local children with disabilities will meet the athletes and learn about wheelchair sports.
Opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the Richmond Convention Center, 403 North Third Street, where many of the week's competitive events will be held. Other events will be held at Hanover Bowling Lanes, the Diamond Parking Lot, Richmond Aquatic Center and other area venues. Admission is free to the public, and the community is encouraged to attend.
Veterans will compete in 17 different sports, including air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field, handcycling, nine-ball, a motorized wheelchair relay, power soccer, quad rugby, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, 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.
The Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond and the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America are hosting the 2012 Games. Veterans competing in the games come from nearly every state, as well as Puerto Rico and Great Britain.
For more information about the games or to volunteer during the week, visit www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.
About PVA: Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered Veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of people with spinal cord injury or disease. It is a dynamic, broad-based organization with more than 19,000 members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.