Red Cross Volunteers Help Prepare Veterans for Wheelchair Games

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“It’s wonderful being able to support these athletes who have served our country.”

The American Red Cross and our Service to Armed Forces (SAF) volunteers are committed to helping military members and veterans. For several months, a team of ten North Jersey Region SAF volunteers have been honored to help veterans with a unique project.

The volunteer team has been helping veterans prepare for the 34th National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Philadelphia from August 12-18. 

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems.

Red Cross volunteers assisted the veterans during training sessions semi-weekly at the East Orange VA Hospital.  Recreation Therapist Ralph Jones designed training plans for the athletes that were executed with the support of the volunteers. Under the supervision of Jones, volunteers assisted the veterans by adjusting workout equipment, helping them lift weights and cheering them on.

“You feel good when you leave,” said Tish Corvino, who co-chairs the volunteer project with fellow Red Cross Volunteer Julie Siciliano. “You can really see you have made a difference. The training is not only key to the athletes’ physical well-being, it’s good for them emotionally too.”

Jones is appreciative of the extra support the volunteers provided, which allowed the veterans to get more out of their training session because each athlete was able to receive more one-on-one assistance. As a result, more veterans were able to simultaneously complete the exercises and spend more time training during each session.

“It’s a big help not only for the veterans, but for me too,” said Jones. “The constant workout keeps their muscles from cooling down and keeps the vets pumped up. I couldn’t train all these guys at once and they need that individualized attention.”

The training helped the athletes strengthen their bodies not only in preparation for the Wheelchair Games, but for day-to-day activities as well.  

The Red Cross team also accompanied the veterans during training outings. Earlier this Spring, volunteers joined Jones and his athletes in New York City where the veterans were fitted for specialized cycles by Pedals of Honor, an organization that aims to make cycling possible for veterans with limb loss, spinal cord injuries or visual impairments. 

As the athletes took to their cycles for a four-mile ride through Central Park, the volunteers cheered them on. They also offered assistance to riders if they needed help getting up hills or when equipment would get stuck on a curb, but their main mission was motivation.  

“It’s wonderful being able to support these athletes who have served our country,” Tish said after watching the athletes take their cycles for a spin. “And it’s been really fun!” 

More than 500 athletes are expected to attend the 34th Annual National Wheelchair Games to compete in events such as air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field events, hand cycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine-ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting and weightlifting

Learn more about the 34th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. 

SERVICE TO THE ARMED FORCES is the original mission of the American Red Cross. For more than a century, the Red Cross has been committed to helping members of the U.S. military, its veterans and their families. 

The Red Cross relies on the volunteer spirit and financial generosity of the American people to support America’s military families. Today, as always, the men and women of the American Red Cross continue to show our appreciation for the dedicated service and patriotic sacrifices of America’s military men and women and their families by being there to support them wherever they are and whenever they need us.