The Fourth of July celebration in Denver, Colorado, takes on special importance this year when more than 500 wheelchair athletes who are all military Veterans begin competition at the 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
The event, presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America, runs July 4 through July 9.
"Honoring those who have given so much to this Nation is appropriate on the day we celebrate America's independence," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "The National Veterans Wheelchair Games exemplify America's commitment to its disabled Veterans and the continuing heroism of these men and women."
The games provide an annual multi-event sports rehabilitation program that is open to Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems and who receive care at any VA medical facility. Athletes attending can be first-time wheelchair athletes or experienced Paralympians. Six of this year's participants have previously competed at the world-class Paralympic level.
"Independence Day is the perfect day to kick off this year's National Veterans Wheelchair Games," said Gene A. Crayton, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. "For 30 years, the Wheelchair Games have helped to empower thousands of paralyzed Veterans to get back into life after serious injury, and to eventually lead full and independent lives."
At the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, Veterans will compete in 17 different sports, including air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field events, handcycling, nine-ball, a motorized wheelchair relay, power soccer, quad rugby, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting, weightlifting and wheelchair slalom. This year, an exhibition event will also be held in kayaking.
The 30th National Veterans Wheelchair Games begin on Sunday, July 4, with a quad rugby demonstration in Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. Kids Day at the games takes place Thursday, July 8, at City Park, where local children with disabilities will meet the athletes and learn about wheelchair sports. Other events will be held at Brunswick Zone, Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, Family Shooting Center, Fishback Park, the Colorado Convention Center and other area venues. Admission is free to the public and local attendance is encouraged.
The VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver and the Mountain States Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America are hosting the 2010 Games. For many injured Veterans, the Wheelchair Games provide their first exposure to wheelchair athletics.
For more information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games or to volunteer during the week, visit the Games Web site at www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.
VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies, and operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 153 medical centers (www.va.gov). Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded 63 years ago. For more than six decades, Paralyzed Veterans of America and its 34 chapters have been working to create an America where all Veterans and people with disabilities and their families have everything they need to thrive (www.pva.org).
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