For someone who, at first, did not know much about disabilities, learning about the 2013 Wheelchair Games was a mind-altering experience. This year, over 600 veterans with spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations, and other mobility impairments flocked to Tampa, FL to compete. Last week, I was fortunate enough to interview two volunteers from the annual wheelchair competition and was genuinely moved by their experiences.
This year’s Games featured more than 3,000 volunteers and several events including (but definitely not limited to) basketball, tennis, bowling, power soccer, swimming, archery, adaptive water skiing, and cycling. Competitors trained and played like warriors—showing no mercy as they participated in the sports they love despite their physical disability.
Mike Ortiz, a 101 Mobility® Tampa service technician and one of the lucky people I got to interview, watched, and cheered on the athletes in a power soccer match. “It was liberating to see how all of these disabled veterans adapted and were able to use their scooters and power chairs in a sporting event. It was definitely a cool thing.”
101 Mobility® Tampa owner and operator Dennis Clouser shared a similar experience. “It was so inspiring,” he said. “These people aren’t in wheelchairs, even though they are, you know? It was an eye-opening experience.”
Learning about the Wheelchair Games put a lot of things into perspective for both me and my fellow interviewees: first, the raw ability of people in the world, even if they carry a disability, contains a colossal amount of hope. Second, the unwavering determination behind these athletes’ capabilities is nothing short of inspiring. And last (although certainly not least)—the beauty of society coming together for a celebration of what they can do, rather than be discouraged by what they can’t, is an existing reality.