/PRNewswire/ -- More than 500 U.S. military veterans, all wheelchair athletes competing in the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games are rolling into Spokane, Washington, starting today to show the nation what it takes to be the best of the best.
The event, running through Saturday July 18, is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world, with athletes competing from 42 states, Puerto Rico and Great Britain. It is a visual demonstration of competition at its best, the courage it takes to compete, and the camaraderie inspired by all who attend.
Paralyzed Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs co-present this comprehensive sports and rehabilitation event each year, designed for paralyzed and other disabled military veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition. These athletes receive care at VA medical facilities or military treatment centers for conditions that include spinal cord injuries, amputations, certain neurological conditions, traumatic brain injuries and other mobility impairments. The Northwest Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans and the SpokaneVA Medical Center are hosting this week's event.
"Get ready for hundreds of smiles in wheelchairs," said Randy L. Pleva, Sr., national president, Paralyzed Veterans of America. "The Wheelchair Games are a unique combination of competition, continuing courage and camaraderie. You will be inspired."
One of today's events is the Games Kickoff, which introduces the Wheelchair Games to the Spokane community. The Kickoff takes place at 11:30 a.m. in the Spokane Convention Center Breezeway and features a wheelchair basketball demonstration that pits some of the experienced athletes against local media representatives and community officials, giving them a true taste of wheelchair sports.
The Opening Ceremonies are this evening, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Arena, near the SpokaneConvention Center. In Olympic-style fashion, the athletes will parade into the arena carrying their state flags, to begin the festivities. Local news reporter, Jade Jordan, will serve as mistress of ceremonies, and nationally acclaimed country and western singer, Amy Clawson, will sing the National Anthem; followed by welcoming remarks from city and Games' officials. To cap off the evening, the 2009 Games torch will be lit as the hosts proclaim, "Let the Games Begin," marking the official start of the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Veterans with disabilities will compete in 17 events throughout the week, which include air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field, handcycling, nineball, a motorized wheelchair rally, power soccer, quad rugby, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting, weightlifting and wheelchair slalom. For the third year, stand-up events will be offered to veterans who prefer to use prosthesis to compete and will include archery and table tennis. A golf clinic will also be held as this year's exhibition sport.
Another special highlight for the Games is Kid's Day, taking place July 17 at Spokane Falls Community College. This is a very special event where athletes, serving as mentors, meet local children with disabilities and teach them about wheelchair sports. This year the children will be introduced to slalom, T-ball and basketball.
The Closing Ceremonies, beginning at 7 p.m. on July 18 at the Spokane Convention Center in Halls B and C, will wrap up the week's festivities by celebratevent, the coveted Spirit of the Games winner for the 2009 Games will be awarded, and the torch will be passed to the local organizing committee in Denver, Colorado, which will host the event in 2010.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is made possible in part through the generous support of the following lead sponsors: National Host: Invacare Corporation; Local Host: Veterans Canteen Service; Sustaining Host: UPS Foundation; National: The Budin Family, The DeGasperis Family Foundation, Health Net Federal Services, Inc., HP, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc., Spokane Transit Authority, Sprint, The ROHO Group, TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Xerox Foundation.
For more information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, please visit the Games Web site at: www.wheelchairgames.va.gov. To contact the Games media center during the week of the event, call: (509) 434-7458, or (509) 434-7459.
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