The 38th National Veterans Wheelchair Games Orlando 2018 is co-presented by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs. This annual rehabilitation and wheelchair sports program is designed to empower Veterans with Spinal Cord Injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, Amputations, Stroke and other neurological injuries to live more independent and active lives through sports and recreation.
The #NVWG is an outgrowth of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ historic involvement in wheelchair sports. Wheelchair sports had their beginning in the aftermath of World War II. Disabled Veterans playing wheelchair basketball in a VA hospital were observed to be showing mobility skills, laughter and team spirit that providers were not seeing in the clinic. The power of sports and recreation to support the recovery of disabled Veterans soon spread throughout VA hospitals across the United States and the field of Recreation Therapy emerged. Interest in wheelchair basketball soon spread to other sports such as track and field, bowling, swimming, and archery, spawning the formation of associations devoted to new and innovative wheelchair sports.
The first National Veterans Wheelchair Games were held in 1981, as part of the “International Year of Disabled Persons,” at the VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA. That year, 74 Veterans from 14 states competed in sports ranging from table tennis and billiards, to swimming and weightlifting. Those attending the first Games established an enduring trait that has characterized the event ever since – a strong sense of community and camaraderie among the participants.
Javelin Event National Veterans Wheelchair Games
By 1985, the Games Had Grown in Size and Complexity.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) offered to become a co-presenter and assist the NVWG to expand into the future. Since then, the partnership has developed into an effective model of collaboration. The PVA’s corporate sponsor program, meetings support and leadership through PVA Sports & Development have resulted in expanding participation throughout PVA Chapters across the country. VA and PVA staff work side by side assuring the NVWG is managed and executed to provide a world class event. In 1987, 12 British military Veterans were invited to participate in the Games and a team from Great Britain has come every year since. After that first year, the British athletes formed a new disabled sports group – The British
Ex-Services Wheelchair Sports Association. This group extended the philosophy behind the National Veterans Wheelchair Games to the rest of the world, hosting International Veterans Wheelchair Games in Great Britain in 1994, 1996, and 1999.
The Program Requires 3000 Local Volunteers and Dozens of Local Sponsors and Supporters
Each year the NVWG travels to a new community. The local organizing committee is lead by a host VA Medical Center and local PVA Chapter; mentored and overseen by the national team. Shifting the Games to a new community each year provides invaluable education opportunities for Veterans on issues regarding travel, self care, and exposes additional Veterans to the program that may not necessarily been aware. The program requires 3,000 local volunteers and dozens of local sponsors and supporters. The impact of hosting the Games in a community results in better awareness and opportunities for Veterans for years following the event.