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From July 8-July 16, three teams from the local Americorp location, Cedar 6, Maple 6 and Oak 3, will attend the National Veteran Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games began in 1981. NVWG is the world's largest rehabilitation games. It has been presented by both the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

The mission of the games is to "empower Veterans to be more active and healthy in their daily lives by getting them involved in sports and recreation programs highlighting fitness, social networking and community involvement."

Just a few of the sports that the Veterans will be competing in will be rugby, power soccer, Softball, swimming, bowling, trapshooting, pool and many other events.

On Saturday, they have a Kids Day event that offers local children with physical disabilities an opportunity to interact with wheelchair athletes competing in the Games. Under the guidance of the experienced athlete mentors, the children will enjoy learning about and participating in adaptive sports activities. This year’s activities will be boccia, slalom and softball.

Kids Day promotes a fun and active lifestyle to children with physical disabilities while fostering important life skills such as teamwork and determination. Participating kids will have an opportunity to learn about and play each sport. At the conclusion of the event, veteran athlete mentors will present the children with their own gold medal for participating in this year’s Kids Day event.

Around 80% of the attendees return multiple times to the games. Participating in close to two dozen various sporting events and over 600 athletes from both the United States and Great Britain many of the athletes will also compete in the Paralympics.

This will be the fourth year that NCCC has assisted NVWG. Around 30 young people will head out to the event on Monday morning and will spend 11 days helping at the event. July 12th will be AmeriCorps Day where alums, ASN, VISTA and SC participants will all assist at the event.

The Oak 3 team will help with transporting the Veterans from the airport to their lodging, events and to the convention center.

Cedar 6 will be setting up, supporting and tearing down water, ice and towel stations at the outside events and at the convention center.

Maple 6 will be helping to set up, move and tear down equipment for each event.

After the groups arrive, they will also receive training to help them better assist the athletes.

The groups heading out are expecting their day to begin well before 7:00 a.m. when their work begins and their days will stretch far into the evenings during the event.

Local Veterans met with the groups that will be going to Louisville at an informal meeting on the AmeriCorps campus Sunday evening. Before the Veterans introduced themselves, Rob Levis, the Region Director at Americorps NCCC and also an Army Veteran explained that while the group would be at the games they would see a lot of friendly camaraderie between the branches. He then explained that "you have the Army and all of the other branches that exist to support the Army," which was met with laughter from the other Veterans in attendance.

The Veterans present introduced themselves and shared a little about where they served. Colman Silbernagel an Army Engineer, finished as a Captain, explained that he ran interference for platoons searching for IED's in Afghanistan. Roger Uthoff a Navy Veteran, who worked in navigation, explaining that they used a sexton and hunted submarines in southeast Asia, the stars to determine their location before electronics. Alan Woodhouse who served in the Coast Guard as a dentist, and preparing the troops to head out, joked that Roger called 4 or 5 times asking for directions so he had no idea how he made it there. Ken Silken also a Navy Veteran, was in the Naval Artillery as well as his wife Marilyn all attended.

Rob Levis explained to the group that the idea of the games seems like something that wouldn't be "important" to some, but he explained that the competition gives the Veterans a reason to leave the house. The VA assists with equipment, training, equipment and travel to help the Veterans.

He talked about a competition called the Super G which is an obstacle course for wheelchairs that involves a teeter-totter, going up and down steps and other challenging events.

Many of the AmeriCorps team members have had experience with Veterans in their personal lives. Roger Uthoff shared with the group about the work that the Honor Flights have done to bring Veterans to Washington D.C., an event that the group wasn't familiar with that brings Veterans to Washington D.C. for a day to tour the military monuments. Some of the AmeriCorps group visited later with Uthoff about the event.

Ending the meeting, Levis explained to the group that the Games are a time that helps the Veterans athletes bond and become an extended family through the 11-day event and expressed his appreciation that the Veterans have for the work that they will be doing and also thanked the Veterans for their service.

To read more about the event click here.



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