SALISBURY – For the first time in its history, the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Salisbury, N.C. is sending a team to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Tampa, Fla.
The 33rd NVWG, which is running from July 13 – 18, is a multi-sports and rehabilitation program for military service members who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems.
Salisbury’s team, Team Blue Steel, is sending six veterans from the Central Piedmont and Triad regions to compete with more than 500 other veteran athletes in the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world.
“This is an amazing and exciting opportunity for some of the veterans from our own area to join in competition and camaraderie with veterans from around the country,” said Kaye Green, FACHE, medical center director. “We are so excited to send a team to the games and we will be following them on Facebook and receiving updates from Tampa to share with everyone.”
Almeta Mallory, a supervisor in the W.G. (Bill) Hefner VAMC Prosthetics Department and a retired Marine Corps veteran, was inspired to start a team after attending her first games in 2009 as a prosthetic representative intern. “I saw the veterans competing and how much it was a positive impact on their lives,” said Mallory. “It made me want to make a difference.”
The team is composed of both seasoned NVWG participants and first-timers. George Ramsey, an Army veteran from Statesville, N.C., has been competing in the wheelchair games since 2009. “I had a ball and I’ve been going ever since,” Ramsey said. “You train harder every year to get to that next level of competition.”
Ramsey and other teammates, including Twila Adams, an Army veteran from Charlotte who has been competing off and on since 2002, hope that their participation will inspire other veterans to be active and try new things. “Sometimes we lose our competitive edge after we become injured and we don’t know what to do. Games like these have allowed me to see what’s possible,” said Adams. “When I’m out and I’m practicing my tennis game somewhere and someone notices that, they can take that information back to their loved one and let them know, ‘if that lady can do it, you can at least come outside and try.’ It all begins from there.”
Mallory said while this is the first team, it won’t be the last. “We plan on continually building from this because we have so many veterans that would benefit from it,” she said.
Veterans are able to participate in the National Veteran Wheelchair Games through fundraising and donor support. To support a team or specific athlete, donors can find the E-Donate button at www.salisbury.va.gov and select “VETS NATIONAL GAMES” under Program for Donation.