Approximately 1,400 people gathered at the Richmond Greater Convention Center Saturday, June 30, to celebrate the ending of the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Hosted by Rob Cardwell, an Emmy Award-winning personality from Richmond’s CBS 6 and an Air Force veteran, the night was mainly about thanks and appreciation: to organizers, volunteers, sponsors and to the participants, who dined during speeches and a lengthy video that offered a recap of the week’s events.
Although she suffers with PTSD, novice Robin Newell said she enjoyed the banquet. “I came in last and put tissue in my ears,” she said. “I was a little uneasy about the crowd. But these people are kitchen friends. There’s not one person here who’s not willing to help. They’re the kind of people you invite into your kitchen for coffee or cookies. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Holly Koester, who was featured in the highlight video in regard to her work at Kids Day, said she was a bit embarrassed about seeing herself on the big screen but overall it was an honor to be featured and an honor to simply be part of the NVWG. “I hope maybe I can inspire others,” she said.
Meanwhile, local organizer Alison Faulk spoke of how important these Games were to the Richmond VA medical center, the community and the area’s veterans. Paralyzed Veterans President Bill Lawson said how impressed he was with the grit and resolve of this year’s novices. Jose Riojas, VA Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security, and Preparedness, issued a challenge to all veterans present to be mentors.
The highlight of the evening, though, was the announcement of the Spirit of the Games award winner: Phil Rosenberg. He rolled to the stage with tears rolling down his face as he accepted the award, which also came with a gift certificate for a wheelchair from Invacare. The award goes to the week’s participant who best exemplifies athletic excellence, sportsmanship and character—all the marks of a true champion. The Games, Rosenberg said in his acceptance speech “are about veterans taking care of veterans, and that’s what we need to do.”
More about the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games
Tim W. Jackson is a freelance writer and editor in Asheville, N.C.