A couple of years ago, Invacare announced their brand promise of Making Life’s Experiences Possible.™ Since the very beginning of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG), Invacare has been on board as a sponsor, helping to make this event and other life experiences possible for the veteran-athletes.
Invacare is a leader in the home and long-term care industries, manufacturing manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, beds, respiratory therapy devices, lifts and slings and an array of personal-care products.
National Account Manager Stuart Cohen said that the long relationship with the NVWG is a natural one. “Foremost, our founder, Mal Mixon, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam,” Cohen said. “He has a passion for the military and veterans. Our company is filled with veterans who served our country.”
In addition, Paralyzed Veterans of America (and by extension the athletes of the NVWG) consists of the exact demographic that Invacare serves. “On the civilian side, we’ve always been involved with Easter Seals and on the military side we’ve always been involved with Paralyzed Veterans,” Cohen said. “Those relationships make sense for us, and they’re important to us.”
In terms of sponsorship, there is a financial component, but Cohen emphasizes that no monetary value can be placed Invacare’s service to the NVWG. “We arrive early so that we can be here when the athletes and their chairs start flying in,” Cohen said. “We help get the chairs off the planes and get them off safely. If they are damaged, we repair them. Then we offer wheelchair repair during the Games. We could touch up to 200 chairs over the course of the week with the first two or three days being the busiest as the athletes are making tweaks and adjustments as they see how their chairs are working in competition.”
Invacare brings about 20 employees in for the NVWG. They arrive early and stay until all the athletes have left. “Some have been attending the Games for 16 or 17 years,” Cohen said, “some just a few years, some are new to the experience.” Cohen is now in his eighth year.
“It’s really become a family affair,” he said. “Over the years I’ve got to know a lot of the VA employees and therapists, a lot of the Paralyzed Veterans people, and a lot of the athletes themselves. When I come here each year, I don’t view it as work but it’s not vacation either. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very rewarding.”
Cohen said that he sees that partnership between Invacare and the NVWG continuing into the future. That said, he added that challenges exist in their corporate world. “We’ve made sacrifices in other areas so we can continue to support the Games as we always have,” Cohen said. “Paralyzed Veterans is a very special partner for us.”
Learn more about the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa
Tim W. Jackson is a freelance writer and editor in Asheville, N.C.