Each year it is imperative for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games to secure a force of enthusiastic volunteers. Without them, the Games simply would not be possible. For the 33rd annual event held in Tampa, volunteers assist in helping everything flow smoothly.
Everywhere you look, you see the white T-shirts worn by the Tampa volunteers, including Charlie and Connie Brown from Tampa, whose fathers were in the military.
Brown explains that he works for JPMorgan Chase and his wife works for Humana and both employers post volunteer opportunities. “We have an affinity for veterans and had the ability to contribute, so after seeing this posted as a volunteer opportunity, this seemed like a great way to get involved.” He adds that he and his wife are both shooters so it worked out appropriately that they were assigned as volunteers for the air guns competition.
“It’s been a great experience to see this up close,” he said, adding that he hopes more people from the Tampa community will come out and see the Games first-hand.
Anther enthusiastic volunteer in Tampa is Jeff Cotten. A retired Marine (who looks much too young to be a retired Marine), Cotten heard about the Games from a “buddy,” he said. Being from nearby Brandon, the Games seemed like a perfect opportunity for him to give back to his fellow veterans. And giving back he is.
Cotten began his stint as a volunteer Saturday, including working the Opening Ceremony, which he said was “incredible.” He also said that on the first day of the competition he was volunteering all day. Seriously. All day. Cotten arrived for duty around 6 a.m. and said he worked until about 11 p.m. He said he thought Tuesday was his light day. “I think I have four hours off,” he said with a laugh.
He explained that he’s been amazed at the athleticism and determination of the participants in Tampa. “They are more athletic than I was in my prime,” he said, adding that he loves the good-natured competition of the Games. “They all want to win, but they all want to help each other, too.”
Cotten’s enthusiasm is so rampant right now that he confessed to having already begun looking at hotels in Philidelphia, site of next year’s Games. “This is so amazing,” he said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”
Learn more about the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa
Tim W. Jackson is a writer and editor in Asheville, N.C.