By Joe RothrockWhen the National Veterans Wheelchair Games came to Seattle, the Northwest Division League of Mercy was there to root for the athletes and their families.
The 16th Annual competition for disabled veterans and other disabled Americans was held in venues throughout the Seattle area recently. The games included archery, basketball, swimming, weightlifting, field events and many other activities. Over 1,000 athletes, coaches and spectators attended the five-day competition.
The event has been held every year since 1981, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America. It is the nation’s largest annual wheelchair sporting event.
For many of the handicapped veterans, simply attending the games was a victory in itself. “Their positive attitude was great. They have given so much more than the rest of us ever will,” said Seattle/King County Advisory Board member Robert DeLappe, who volunteered his time to give drinks and snacks to the thirsty athletes.
This was the first time the national event was held in Seattle. Several of this year’s games were held at the University of Washington, where The Salvation Army set up a mobile canteen offering beverages, snacks and emotional support. In one day The Salvation Army served 400 people, giving out 10 gallons of coffee and five gallons of Gatorade, as well as 13 dozen doughnuts and eight dozen cookies.
“A lot of veterans are on fixed incomes, and they’ve saved all year to come here to participate. We wanted in some small way to help them, many of whom couldn’t afford to purchase snacks on their tight budgets,” said Major Betsy Kyle, divisional League of Mercy secretary. She noted that The Salvation Army was the only group offering free snacks to those involved.
Events were held throughout the day, and 26 Salvation Army officers, staff and volunteers gave their time to help the disabled. “I wanted to show my support for the veterans. They gave to us, so we need to give back to them and show our gratitude and love for them,” said volunteer Erin Reinikka.