PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The 31st National Veterans Wheelchair games began Monday in downtown Pittsburgh. Over 600 veterans are competing in the events this week, which continue until Saturday.

The veterans came from all over the United States to compete in the games, which will take place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“These are all veterans that have given something so we can have competitions like this so we can all be free,” said the VA’s Tom Brown.

“Well I think that they can learn that disability is not the end of life.  You can have a nice family, participate in sports, work.  We’re normal people, it’s good to know us,” Wheelchair Veteran Rory Cooper said.

Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris hosted the opening ceremonies on the Clemente Bridge early Monday afternoon.

“I don’t think that there is an event that you would watch that you wouldn’t be inspired just by the courage of those individuals in the wheelchairs that are competing,” Bleier said.

The veterans will play 17 sports and the competition can be fierce.

“These sports are crash-bang, smash ‘em up. We have a blast, and we bang chairs. Some people think that when they hear wheelchair sports, that it’s something mild, it’s not. It is just as intense as it can be,” Tricia LaBar said.

Actor Henry Winkler is also making an appearance in Pittsburgh for the Wheelchair Games. He is here for a special cause, promoting awareness of upper limb spasticity, a debilitating condition that affects roughly 1 million Americans.

Winkler is the spokesperson for the Open Arms Campaign.

“There is this therapeutic use of botox for upper limb spasticity, that is just amazing and I have seen the results. The Paralyzed Veterans Association is now our newest partner in getting the word out on this botox,” Winkler said.

He will be at the Disabled Sports, Recreation, and Fitness Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The games haven’t been hosted in Pittsburgh since 1998. All events are open to the public and are free.

To see the schedule of the events, go to: http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/wcg/docs/nvwg-schedule.asp


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