Louisville VA Medical Center
Veteran athletes inspire children at NVWG
Popping wheelies, getting faces painted and running through some of the sports was all part of the fun for disabled children Saturday, July 13, at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games Kid’s Day.
Twenty-four children from the Kentucky and Indiana area came to the International Convention Center in downtown Louisville to meet and play with many of the Veteran athletes competing in this year’s Games.
U. S. Army Veteran Andreana Bailey joined Kid’s Day as a mentor this year for the first time. Bailey said she wanted to make sure she gave back to others and show the children there is “life after an injury.”
Bailey, from Washington D.C., has participated in the National Veteran Wheelchair Games since 1997. In 2017 she earned the Spirit of the Games award, the highest athlete award presented at the Games. She has lost count of how many gold, silver and bronze medals she has earned over the years.
“I want them to know they can achieve anything. That this isn’t the end, but this is the beginning. These children can see our attitude, our strength, and they can feel better about their situation.”
Bailey helped a nine-year old girl with a spinal cord injury join the Kid’s Day fun.
She said it’s about reaching back and sharing her strength, resiliency and tenacity while overcoming limitations.
“I like to pass it on. They can pass it on too, to other people behind them,” she said.
Ten-year-old Ean VanGordon travelled from more than an hour away in Indianapolis to participate in Kid’s Day. Ean’s mom, Michelle VanGordon, said he was excited when he heard about the opportunity.
“Anything related to sports, he’s interested in.” she said.
Ean has spina bifida and other issues with his hips that requires he use a wheelchair every day. His wheelchair doesn’t prevent him from playing sports, however. Ean plays basketball, tennis, and sled hockey and wants to be a sports broadcaster when he grows up.
After hitting a few homeruns and mastering the obstacle course, Ean received a medal and talked about the challenge of the obstacle course.
“I almost fell over on my face!” he said while describing the difficulty of the bumpy parts of the wheelchair course.
Ean spent a lot of time talking about baseball with his Veteran mentor, Mike Guibault from Massachusetts. Ean’s favorite part of Kid’s Day was baseball, because it, “was just more fun,” he said. When asked about his mentor, he said, “I liked that he was a Veteran.”
Following the physical activity part of Kid’s Day, the children enjoyed face-painting and their Veteran mentors joined them for a pizza party.