A few years ago, a fellow veteran buddy and I were working with the U.S. Olympic Committee to try to bring the Warrior Games to Charlotte. Warrior Games are USOC-sponsored Paralympics for the wounded military and veteran population.
Having seen how losing a limb or body function can devastate one personally and professionally, we knew that athletic training and competition was a way to rebuild emotionally, physically, and socially. Our hope was to raise the visibility of the military and civilian disabled athletic population, create more opportunities for disabled citizens to stay active, and highlight Charlotte’s patriotism toward military programs like the Warrior Games.
While the Warrior Games have remained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, other veterans who share our passion for promoting sports for disabled have carried the mantel and created nation-wide initiatives to meet the same objectives. One of those groups is hosting a competition in Charlotte this weekend.
Need a dose of inspiration? Consider heading to the U.S. National White Water Center to see disabled and able-bodied athletes kick butt in an adventure race.
What is this race?
The national nonprofit World T.E.A.M. Sports, led by an intrepid Marine veteran, selected Charlotte to host its Adventure Team Challenge North Carolina this November 13-15 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The race will feature eight teams of disabled and able-bodied civilian and military veterans. For each competing team of five athletes – two athletes being disabled, one being a wheelchair user. Teamwork, close cooperation and strategic thinking are vital components for successfully completing the challenging course.
Whitewater rafting, off-road bicycling, rock climbing and orienteering will be among the featured sports in the inaugural challenge. Each team member must complete each stage. That means that the team must figure out how to move a wheel chair and it’s intrepid rider across some pretty daunting obstacles.
This group’s competitions truly change lives through sports by: (1) Building self-confidence and physical fitness for the disabled participants; (2) Participating disabled athletes provide a role model for other individuals with disabilities, encouraging them to take up physical activities; (3) The disabled become a moving inspiration to other participants and to spectators when they see that individuals with disabilities can meet challenges beyond anyone’s imagination; and (4) The disabled and able-bodied participants learn to work as a team to overcome physical, emotional and technical challenges.
From the first challenge in 2007, more than 400 athletes with and without disabilities have successfully completed the multistage event. The Adventure Team Challenge was created to bring together athletes from varying backgrounds in an outdoor environment to work together to solve technical and logistical challenges. Participants have included injured military veterans, as well as civilians who sustained injuries in accidents or through illness. The program has included amputees, persons with paralysis, persons who are blind or deaf, persons with post-traumatic stress and persons with traumatic brain injuries.
World T.E.A.M. Sports, chartered in Charlotte in 1993, is returning to North Carolina for the first time since 2004 to direct the challenge. Currently headquartered in Holbrook, New York, the organization creates inclusive events that change lives of disabled and able-bodied athletes through sports. Past events include a world bicycle ride, several cross-country bicycle rides, climbs of high peaks in Asia and Africa and competitive events like the Adventure Team Challenge.
The Challenge begins at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on the afternoon of November 13 and continues through the early afternoon of November 15. Athletes from North Carolina and across the United States will be traveling to Charlotte to compete.
Do you still have all your limbs? Come out and show your support for wounded warriors, veterans, and others who share the belief in the power of sport and camaraderie to transform live of those who have suffered loss. Meet us at the finish line between 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday. I guarantee you’ll come away inspired.
(Photo credit: Cover image via Vance Jacobs)