Hundreds of men and women who served our country in the military and ended up in wheelchairs will compete in athletic events over the next several days in Omaha-Council Bluffs. The 28th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games open on Friday. Will Ackerman, spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Nebraska and Western Iowa, says one day of the Games will be devoted to kids.
Ackerman says on Sunday, area children with physical disabilities will be given the chance to meet some world-class wheelchair athletes, learn about living with disabilities and actually compete in wheelchair sports during Kids Day 2008. He says it’s a great way to introduce the world of adaptive sports and recreation to kids ages between six and 16.
He says it’s a way for the children to learn from mentors, the wheelchair athletes themselves, and to participate. There will also be a medal awards ceremony at the end of the day for the kids. He says the children will be competing in several events.
Those categories include: T-ball, archery, wheelchair slalom and various other events under the guidance of experienced wheelchair athletes. Ackerman says the kids taking part will be able to meet wheelchair-athletes from all over the world.
"For the kids to learn from their mentors, to maybe learn about how they can compete in some of these sports so maybe in years to come, they can actually compete in the Wheelchair Games or the Para-Olympics," Ackerman says. "Really, it’s all about just getting out there and still being active, still competing and also about the camaraderie. It is just an exciting time."
More than 500 veterans are expected for the games from the U.S., Puerto Rico and Great Britain. All have served in the military as far back as World War II to as recently as Operation Enduring Freedom. There will be seventeen competitive events including: hand-cycling, basketball, track and field and softball. There will also be exhibition sled hockey.