Member, Evelyn, hands out pompoms and light sticks to Puerto Rican Veterans and others to get them energized for the opening ceremony.

Member, Kent, greets Vietnam Vet, Larry, who served in the US Navy from 1962 – 1968 before Kent prepares to load him onto a bus.

By Angela Sarrels

More than 20 AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) members (teams Maple 5, Maple 10 and Oak 8) from the regional campus in Vinton, Iowa are providing additional manpower for the 38th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games July 30-August 4 in Orlando, Fla.

Through their service, AmeriCorps NCCC members are helping ensure the games run smoothly and the competing veterans have a safe, enjoyable experience. The members are providing event support which consists of setting up and tearing down different courts and assisting athletes during the games. They are providing transportation assistance by helping competitors move on and off buses securely throughout the weeklong games. Finally, members have been manning cooling and hydration stations so that athletes remain hydrated throughout the competition.

“I’m excited to serve at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games because it’s a great opportunity to give back and to support our veterans,” said Heather Orf, AmeriCorps NCCC member from Wentzville, Mo. “It is such an important event that so many veterans look forward to each year. I’m excited to be a part of it!”

AmeriCorps NCCC member Narissa says this about the opportunity to support the Games, “The thing that excites me the most about serving at the NVWG is the opportunity to hear the veterans stories and experiences, as well as being able to help provide them with the best experience possible at the games.”

Prior to arriving at the NVWG, these teams were helping restore and increase tree canopy in riparian areas, wetlands and storm water basins with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society in Philadelphia, removing invasive species and supporting community gardens with Bloomington Parks and Recreation in Bloomington, Ind., and helping build historic cabins at Mill Creek in Chelsea, Mich. The teams will be returning to these projects once the National Veterans Wheelchair games have ended this weekend.

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are jointly presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, offering close to two dozen different events which veteran athletes from the United States and Great Britain compete in. The games are the world’s largest rehabilitation and wheelchair sports program designed to empower veterans with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, amputations, and other neurological injuries. The Games allow not only for competition but also a true sense of community and encourage veterans to live a healthy and independent lifestyle through sports and recreation. For more information, visit www.wheelchairgames.org.

Member, AR, helps at the cycling tournament handing out beverages, snacks, and towels to all the athletes.

Members, Izzy and AR, work together to create the flooring of the football, soccer, and rugby courts.

Member Austyn help to unload supplies during check in for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Member, Cole, checks in and organizes specialty chairs with the help from his other fellow members after athletes finish their events.