Manor man wins medals at veterans' Wheelchair Games
MANOR — John Kellner, a Navy veteran, trained all year for the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Florida.
All that practice paid off.
Kellner earned a total of four silver medals in the senior division — in bowling, archery, a 100-meter race and a 200-meter race.
He said he practiced for the races along a two-mile portion of the Armstrong Rails to Trails in Ford City to prepare for the games and lifted weights regularly at the Richard G. Snyder YMCA in Kittanning.
And although he didn't medal in the weightlifting event this year, he plans to try and win one next year and already has resumed training.
This was his third year to compete in the NVWG, which was held July 13-18 in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Kellner, who served from 1967 to 1971 during the Vietnam War, wants to get the word out to encourage more veterans to participate in next year's games, which are scheduled to be held Aug. 12-17 in Philadelphia.
“You don't have to be injured in action to compete,” he said.
Kellner said he broke his back 45 years ago and ended up in a wheelchair after his condition worsened.
“Once I started to compete, it gave me something to look forward to each year,” he said. “Everyone is classified according to their injuries. There are lots of events for every imaginable disability.”
The Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs have co-presented the games since 1985.
Kellner was one of 17 competitors who traveled with a group of veterans from the Paralyzed Veterans of America Keystone Chapter, according to Joe Dornbrock, executive director of the chapter.
The Athletes' participation in the games is a culmination of a year-round health and fitness regime, said Dornbrock.
“This is our most expensive program,” he said, adding that the Keystone Chapter pays for virtually all of the expenses for those who qualify for the games.
He said the nonprofit organization relies completely on contributions from the public and works to improve the quality of life for veterans by helping them access health care and benefits. The nonprofit monitors veterans' health care to ensure providers are meeting their obligations.
Dornbrock said the organization advocates for veterans and also for the rights of all disabled people.
Part of the organization's mission is to help expand sports and recreational opportunities for disabled veterans. That's why the NVWG is so important, he said.
Participants experience a lot of camaraderie with not only American veterans but also with British veterans who travel to the United States to participate at their own expense, said Dornbrock.
The national competition includes table tennis and billiard games, aquatic, track and field events, contact sports like Quad Rugby and wheelchair basketball, as well as events that highlight dexterity including navigation through obstacle courses.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.