The largest wheelchair sports event in the world gives veterans an opportunity to come together, test their skills and build camaraderie.
And while the event sponsors and partners take care of the participants once they arrive each summer, the athletes are responsible for their own travel costs.
After hearing that, Dylan Chambal, 17, decided to help. So this weekend, he is inviting able-bodied Valley residents to try sports from a new prospective.
During the wheelchair games he is organizing Saturday at Gilbert’s Campo Verde High School, participants can try wheelchair basketball, wheelchair shot put, and more. Admission begins at 8 a.m. Cost is $15 per person, which gives each person a wristband to participant in all events.
Chambal hopes 200 people come to the event.
The senior at Campo Verde learned about wheelchair sports after watching his able-bodied cousin spend a week in a wheelchair last summer to see what it would be like.
Chambal saw the physical requirements his cousin needed to maneuver the wheelchair and realized there may be an opportunity to incorporate that into his senior year “capstone” project for his biomedical innovations project this year.
So when classes resumed in August, Chambal started doing some research and found out about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
“The government pays for vets once they get there. The problem is the vets have to pay their way. Many are on welfare and they can’t afford the airfare. There are tons of veterans, not only in Arizona, but all over America not being able to afford it. These are people who gave their ability to walk for us. We need to help them to go for a week and have fun with people like them,” Chambal said.
This year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be in Tampa, Fla. Veterans in wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems compete against one another in swimming, weightlifting, quad ruby and other sports. More than 500 athletes are expected for the events, which began in 1981.
Chambal is working with the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System, Paralyzed Veteran’s of America, Arizona Disabled Sports, and the University of Arizona girls wheelchair basketball team to host the Gilbert event.
“I had the chance to go to the UA wheelchair basketball tournament. It is much more competitive and much more entertaining than you’d think. The athletes are very skilled. They’re in great shape. It’s just a different style of play. It’s interesting to learn and watch how they do it. It might not seem that hard, but it is much more difficult than you would think,” Chambal said.
Different groups are lending the wheelchairs being used this weekend, including Mesa-based Arizona Disabled Sports.
“When someone like Dylan calls and wants to promote the organization in their school, we jump at the opportunity to educate younger people,” said Lane Gram, executive director of Arizona Disabled Sports. “You never know someone who may know somebody with a disability or a young person who may want to work with athletes with disabilities.”
Arizona Disabled Sports now has more than 250 athletes with physical disabilities compete weekly in any number of events.
There is no advance registration for Saturday’s event, Chambal said. Volunteers will be on-hand to sign up participants to run the program from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you go
The Wheelchair Games will be Saturday, March 23, at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert. Cost is $15, with all money going to help send disable veterans to national ‘games’.
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