While there’s plenty of talk about the Olympics in China coming up in August, preparations are underway for a different sort of Olympics much closer to home — the 28th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in July in Omaha/Council Bluffs. Will Ackerman, spokesman for the V-A Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System – Department of Veterans Affairs, says more than 500 veterans from across the nation and beyond will be competing at these games.
Ackerman says: "They’re coming from all 50 states plus a contingent from Puerto Rico and Great Britain. It’s really a great opportunity for people to come out and cheer on the veterans who are participating and really be part of a world class event and showcase the support for the veteran community."
Ackerman says veterans who have fought in wars from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom will compete in a number of different games ranging from swimming, table tennis, weight lifting, air guns, basketball, archery, nine-ball, softball, rugby, bowling and the list goes on and on. He says it’s "the largest annual wheelchair sports competition in the world. We are going to be having some fundraisers leading up to July.
We will also be having a kick-off event before the games similar to what you might see in the Olympics to where all of the athletes join together and we recognize them." Ackerman says to make the games a success, volunteers are needed. He says: "The volunteers are going to be doing a little bit of everything, anything from helping the wheelchair athletes themselves in the different events to doing registration to meals.
There are so many pieces to putting this game on because there are going to be more than 500 wheelchair athletes so there is a lot of things that need to be done." Ackerman says the competition promotes rehabilitation and wellness through rigorous sports competition and for many newly injured veterans, this is their first exposure to wheelchair sports. The event will take place at seven locations in the Omaha metro area July 26-28.