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“The Force Behind the Force”

“The Force Behind the Force”

Earlier this year, in an effort to give back to those who “have borne the battle,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new nationwide initiative “Summer of Service,” with a focus on growing the number of individuals and organizations serving veterans and their communities. As part of its commitment to this initiative, World Sport Chicago hosted the 5th annual Valor Games Midwest, the three day adaptive sports competition for veterans and active duty service members with physical and visual disabilities. Between August 18-20, athletes from all around the country competed in discus, shot put, cycling, archery, powerlifting, and indoor rowing. Competitions kicked off at Soldier Field on Tuesday, August 18, followed by camaraderie at Armour Square Park on Wednesday, and FinISHed at Marquette Park on the South Side on Thursday.

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Opening Ceremonies with Army veteran, Paralympian Melissa Stockwell at Soldier Field.

Rooted in the belief that healthy, active lifestyles and community participation are important to successful community reintegration and overall life satisfaction, the Valor Games Midwest is more than just a three day competition.  We believe that consistent physical exercise is the most under-prescribed response to counter the in-service and post-service symptoms such as Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. “Physical activity is healing to the mind, spirit and soul,” said the U.S. Navy Veteran Don Jackson who has participated in the Valor Games Midwest since the event started in 2011.

Furthermore, our goal is to provide veterans with available educational, social, and employment resources, which is what the Veterans Resource Expo, hosted by the Chicago Park District, accomplished. Ultimately, our mission is to make this event a year-round celebration by connecting athletes to their community and sport partners with a physical and social activity, so that they can build camaraderie and friendships, and continue to be active. This year, athletes were able to participate in biathlon, judo, tennis, boccia, golf, and fishing clinics. “This helps to bring us back,” Army veteran Babette Peyton said. “It helps us change the scenario, change the focus. Not about what you can’t do, but what you can do.” Air Force veteran Steve Aoyagi who really enjoyed his tennis practice with the US Paralympian Paul Moran at Armour Square Park on Wednesday would like to continue playing tennis, and will join Paul’s softball team. “You did an outstanding job,” Aoyagi reflected on his experience at the 2015 Valor Games Midwest.

Air Force veteran Steve Aoyagi playing tennis with the U.S. Paralympian Paul Moran at Armour Square Park.

Air Force veteran Steve Aoyagi playing tennis with the U.S. Paralympian Paul Moran at Armour Square Park.

We could not have hosted such an event without the many outstanding individuals and organizations whose generosity over the years has helped us maintain and expand the Valor Games Midwest. Your time, effort, and funding have enabled us to expand and make the 5th annual event the best one yet. We hope that we have thanked you all individually, and that you know how important your support has been to us.

We wish to acknowledge and express our gratitude, first and foremost, to all of our sports partners for the contribution during the planning and implementation of this event. We are extremely fortunate to partner with Chicago Park District (CPD), Adaptive Adventures, Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA), Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Sports (RIC), Chicagoland Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD), Chicago Indoor Rowing Club (CIRC) Adaptive, Menomonee Judo Club, Cross Country Ski Association, Adaptive Sports and Recreation at Turnstone Centre for Disabled Children and Adults, Chicago Bow Hunters, Inc., Project Mobility, and BlazeSports.

We would also like to express our gratitude to Navy veteran, 3 time Paralympic medalist Will Groulx, and Army veteran, Paralympian Melissa Stockwell for supporting and encouraging athletes during the event.

Navy veteran and 3 time paralympic medalist Will Groulx with Valor Games athlete Babette Peyton.

Navy veteran and 3 time paralympic medalist Will Groulx with Valor Games athlete Babette Peyton.

Special thanks to John S. Butsch of CIRC Adaptive for not only running the indoor rowing competitions but also sponsoring a social event with food, refreshments, and live blues for all the athletes at Buddy Guy’s Legends. As a famous American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay’s said, “without music I should wish to die.” Click here to discover the power of music in one Vietnam veteran’s remarkable story in the midst of war.

Thank you to so many other enthusiastic individuals who have been willing to travel from near and far, and were working hard to help us recognize our veterans and expand their opportunities: Gerry Henaghan, Dan Ferreira and Dan Tun of CPD, Nicole Verneuille and Tom Daily of GLASA, U.S. Paralympian Paul Moran, Mary Hodge of U.S. Para Powerlifting, Tina Acosta, Julie Fritz, and Melissa Kress, all committee members on the USTA Midwest Wheelchair Section.

To Bob Milkovich for capturing all the great moments with a thousand words.

To Stephanie Krol Public Relations, and the media, for all you have done to elevate the awareness of the event.

To all of our dedicated volunteers who have been involved prior and during the event.

Last but not least, this event would not have been possible without the support and contributions of our corporate partners, especially BP, which has recommitted to the “Wall of Thanks” – made up of handwritten thank you notes and social media posts that were displayed each day of the Valor Games Midwest.

Most importantly, we would like to thank all the athletes who have participated at the 5th Valor Games Midwest, and their caregivers who supported and encouraged them. You are the foundation of this event, and have allowed for its success. To conclude, congratulations to the Air Force veterans for winning the highest percentage of medals at the 2015 Valor Games Midwest.

Air Force veterans winning the branch award at the 2015 Valor Games Midwest.

Air Force veterans winning the branch award at the 2015 Valor Games Midwest.

One Response to ““The Force Behind the Force””
  1. mccaffrey says:

    my 2nd year coming out the people of Chicago have been just great and ill see you next year

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