The 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games kicked off in Salt Lake City Monday.
Just outside of Vivint Smart Home Arena the sounds of street basketball fill the air. And while it sounds like any game of basketball, this one is being played by a group of military veterans in wheelchairs.
“Well, I’m from Buffalo, New York. Of course, I’m here for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest wheelchair sporting event in the world.”
That’s Jake Hipps. He’s a Vietnam era veteran who has been participating in the games since 1997.
“It’s better therapy than what you get in a hospital. This is therapy on how to relive life. And if you can relive life with the therapy you get in the hospital, you going to live life. See, if you can do stuff like this, you can do almost anything.”
The Games are put on by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The first event took in place in 1981 in Richmond, Virginia, and they’ve been growing ever since. This year organizers expect more than 600 athletes to participate. Tom Brown is a double amputee and a recreational therapist. He is one of the original founders of the Wheelchair Games.
“One of my missions and one of the missions of the VA and Paralyzed Veterans is to get our Veterans out of the hospital, back into society, back into the community, showing them things that maybe because of their injury they thought they couldn’t do anymore, but we’re here to show them that the impossible is possible,” Brown says.
Athletes at the games will compete in a wide-range of sports, from basketball and softball, to table tennis and weightlifting. All of the events are free to the public and most will take place at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The Games will wrap up Saturday July 2nd.