This month, our local VA New Jersey Health Care System Wheelchair Team, THUNDER, represented at the 41st National Veterans Wheelchair Games, held in Tempe, Arizona.
The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Wheelchair Games in 1981 with 7 events and 77 athletes. Paralyzed Veterans of America joined the VA in 1985 to help expand the event’s mission and reach. The Wheelchair Games has flourished as more VA therapists turn to adaptive sports to help veterans become more active in their lives and communities – and, in some cases, reach higher levels of national and international competition. Over the years, thousands of veterans with disabilities have gained the skills, confidence, and experience to take on challenges in the spirit of opportunity rather than limitation.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is co-presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Both organizations offer programs that help veterans with disabilities increase their independence, health, and quality of life through wheelchair sports and recreation. Veterans are often first exposed to adaptive sports through their local VA Medical Center or PVA Chapter.
"We already have the Gold Medal, now let's see who you are going to allow to take it away", said Ralph Jones, Recreation Therapist and THUNDER Coach. Jones has been coaching the VANJHCS team since 1984.
THUNDER team members are James Hunter, US Army; Julia Torres , US Army; Jefferson Sanders, US Marines; Anthony Norwood, US Army; Kenneth Keitt , US Marines; Miguel Martinez, US Marines, and Geno Henderson, US Air Force. Together, these Veterans participated in the following events and achieved Gold, Silver and Bronzes medals:
Javelin Throw – 1 Gold Medal
Discus Throw – 1 Gold Medal & 1 Silver Medal
Shot Putt - 1 Gold Medal
Powerlifting – 2 Gold Medal
Bowling – 1 Gold Medal & 1 Bronze Medal
9-Ball – 1 Gold Medal
Motor Rally – 1 Silver Medal
Boccia Ball – 1 Bronze Medal
"On behalf of the VA New Jersey Health Care Leadership team, we are incredibly proud of our Veteran athletes and Mr. Jones for his unwavering support and dedication to our National Wheelchair Team", added John Griffith, Acting, Executive Medical Center Director. This team continues to inspire us every year with their courage and skills".
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held in Portland, Oregon in 2023! We're watching you Team THUNDER! Congratulations to you all and Good Luck next year!