By Libby Hopkins
The 2013 Wheelchair Games will be held in Tampa from July 13-18. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections’ employees are putting together a volunteer team for the games. “The Wheelchair Games bring together an amazing group of people who exemplify determination, perseverance and hard work,” said Craig Latimer, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections, “Not only is it inspiring to be a part of that, but we appreciate the opportunity to give back to veterans, so we’re getting our volunteer applications together now and look forward to the games.”
The National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games are an outgrowth of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ historic involvement in wheelchair sports. The wheelchair sports had its beginning in the aftermath of WWII, when young disabled Veterans began playing wheelchair basketball in VA hospitals throughout the United States. Interest in wheelchair basketball soon spread to other sports such as track and field, bowling, swimming and archery. This spawned the formation of several associations devoted to new and innovative wheelchair sports, such as trapshooting, nineball, power soccer and quad rugby to name a few. The first wheelchair games were held in 1981 with 74 Veterans from 14 states competing. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games represent the largest annual wheelchair sport event in the world.
The Tampa Convention Center and St. Pete Times Forum will serve as the main venues for the Games. Co-hosts for the event will be the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, along with the Florida Gulf Coast and Central Florida chapters of Paralyzed Veterans. The event annually draws more than 500 veterans who compete against peers according to wheelchair sports experience and ability. A special “Kids Day” is also a part of the games and this allows children with disabilities to meet the athletes and be introduced to wheelchair sports. The games help cultivate Veteran athletes who wish to compete at the elite level, while also providing opportunities for newly disabled Veterans to gain sport skills and peer support from other wheelchair athletes.
The games need 3,000 volunteers to make sure the events run smoothly. If you are interested in serving as a volunteer during the week of the 33rd National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games, please contact Camilla Thompson, Volunteers Chair, at 972-2000 EXT 6580 or visit www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.