PHOTO: Basketball is part of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest such event in the world. This year’s games are under way in Philadelphia. Photo credit: U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs
They showed courage and heart while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and now that same grit and determination is on display at the 34th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Some 600 veterans with disabilities representing states across the nation – including Tennessee – are taking part in the games this week. Director David Tostenrude said it’s part of their rehabilitation programming, which uses sports and recreation as tools to help them stay active and independent. “Throughout the week they’re competing,” he said, “but they’re also learning about opportunities and equipment that’ll help them go home and continue to participate in their communities, with their family, friends, etc.” The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are being held in Philadelphia through Sunday with competitions across 18 events, making it the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. Tostenrude said regular activity for those individuals with disabilities is key for their health – not only physically, but also mentally. “The disabled veterans that are engaged in sports and recreation are more fit,” he said. “They have more skills to be independent and therefore, they have better lives, they have better relationships, they’ll be able to return to work versus being depressed.” In Tennessee, efforts are ongoing for people with disabilities seeking ways to stay active. One is a series of adaptive climbing clinics, with the next on Aug. 23 in Nashville. The event is presented by Catalyst Sports; its executive director, Eric Gray, said they’ve found ways to adapt the sport so anyone with any disability can experience rock climbing. “Being able to accomplish something, such as making it to the top of the wall when they first thought that they couldn’t.” he said. “Getting the confidence from that then builds them up to take that into their life and say, ‘Well, if I can do this, I can do anything.’ “In addition to the indoor climbing clinics, Catalyst Sports also has outdoor climbs. Its next big event takes participants up Table Rock Mountain in North Carolina for a Sept. 11 “tribute climb” for veterans with disabilities. More information is online at va.gov and climbnashville.com.