This summer, Cincinnati was the host for the 37th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). Veterans from across the United States and even one team from Great Britain traveled to our city to compete in 18 adaptive sporting events such as swimming, bowling, trap shooting, basketball and quad rugby.
The games, which are co-sponsored by the Veterans Administration and Paralyzed Veterans of America, rely on thousands of volunteers to run smoothly, and 167 of those volunteers were students, coaches, former teachers, past and current parents, and alumni from Archbishop McNicholas High School. Former McNicholas teacher and NVWG volunteer coordinator Gwyn Bush as well as the McNicholas Service Club and a number of began recruiting volunteers in the spring to help with the event.
“Our team was by far the largest from any high school,” Bush said. “The McNicholas team took sole responsibility for the signing in and credentials distribution of over 3,900 volunteers between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. each day. This was the first time ever that the competitions were not delayed due to an insufficient number of volunteers.”
In addition to their work in the volunteer center, McNicholas volunteers helped with hand cycling, bowling, track, field, trapshooting, air rifles, weightlifting, swimming, airport arrivals and departures, and baggage assistance. McNicholas volunteers wore backpacks lettered with “Veterans, Archbishop McNicholas High School has your back!” printed on them.
Senior Alex Ballou volunteered over 60 hours throughout the games in different capacities. One of his most memorable experiences was when he helped Aadrina Bailey, one of the athletes pictured on the NVWG promotional poster this year. Bailey is from Washington D.C. and has been competing since 1997. She took the gold medal in bowling this year with Ballou by her side.
“Aadrina was doing okay for the first half of her first game. I was just following her instructions as far as how to adjust the ramps,” Ballou said. “Around the 6th frame, Aadrina asked me how I thought we could adjust the ramp. After that, we were very successful, and she asked my opinion on every roll. I was basically her bowling caddy!”
Over 500 paraplegic and quadriplegic athletes from the United States and Great Britain competed in a minimum of three and a maximum of five events, lending new perspectives to old notions of sports, competition, and athlete. “We saw veteran after veteran living life fully, without limits, in spite of their confinement to their chairs,” Bush said. “We were in awe of their amazing patience and their warm camaraderie.”
The spirit of generosity that is the hallmark of the McNicholas community manifested itself whether it was one person who wanted to help with an event, a trio of veterans who graduated from McNicholas the same year, or our entire current football team. “The encouragement and respect our volunteers showed the athletes and their families was a great testimony to the core value of service throughout the entire Archbishop McNicholas High School community,” Bush said. “Thank you, each and every volunteer.”