On Saturday, September 21, at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital's 60-acre campus in White Plains, New York, a memorable event took place. No, it didn't involve any celebrities or stars you're familiar with, but there was media coverage and some indisputable winners. In short, the whole thing was a huge success – thanks to all the dedicated volunteers and donors.
The event was the 40th
annual 2019 Wheelchair Games. And the winners were all the brave
athletes who participated.
opened in 1915 and has "been a leader in medical rehabilitation
for more than one hundred years." It is accredited by both the
Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of
Rehabilitation Facilities – "the gold standards for acute care
rehabilitation hospitals in the United States today." This
remarkable hospital has been "academically affiliated with the
prestigious Albert Einstein College of Medicine" for the past
Welcoming patients from across
the country and around the world, "Burke provides inpatient and
outpatient rehabilitation for a broad range of neurological,
musculoskeletal, cardiac, and pulmonary disabilities caused by
disease or injury." Most often, patients at Burke have been
transferred from acute-care hospitals after stabilization of their
Patients participate in
intensive, custom-tailored programs involving physical, occupational,
and speech therapy. This "personalized care is the result of
expert, interdisciplinary teams, led by a remarkable range of medical
specialists" – including "neurologists, physiatrists,
internists, rheumatologists, pulmonologists, and neurophysiologists.
The intensive therapy regimens can involve as much as 15 hours of
physical, occupational, and speech therapy every week.
Because Burke aims to treat
the whole person, not merely the body, "[r]ecreational therapy,
chaplain visits, patient greenhouse activities and family support
groups are also available. These resources explain Burke's national
reputation for excellence and its consistent success helping patients
achieve their maximum recovery."
And that is exactly why the
Wheelchair Games exist – to instill
confidence and promote recovery
through active fun.
The Wheelchair Games typically
include participants who span the age spectrum – from as young as
five years old on up to 70. They compete in a variety of events such
as wheelchair slalom races, javelin throwing, and table tennis, and
they all get a plaque and a goody bag containing bandanas
donated by Wholesale For Everyone.
Here's how their website describes this event: "Burke's campus will transform into a unique forum for sportsmanship, camaraderie, and determination. The sporting event allows disabled persons to show their ability in a variety of track, field, and table tennis events. Sports are known for their therapeutic benefits, and the Wheelchair Games help athletes build strength, coordination, endurance, and self-confidence, allowing those with physical impairments the ability to stay active and to enjoy the competition."
There's a lot of food and
sheer fun in conjunction with sweating in the athletic events.
Volunteers set up a huge tent in the parking lot where lunch is
served for the event. In addition, there is musical entertainment,
along with silent auctions and chance raffles to raise money for the
cause. And because the athletes aren't competing against one another
– rather, building confidence to help them in their rehabilitation
and recovery – they all get a trophy.
This year's Wheelchair Games,
annual held on September 21, boasted 50 athletes. In addition, a new
twist this year was the incorporation into the Games of the Spinal
Cord Injury (SCI) Sports and Vendor Expo in honor of Spinal Cord
Injury Awareness Month (September). Vendors presented on "topics
such as adaptive equipment, new technologies, services, and products
relevant to life after SCI," with "adaptive sports and
interactive product demonstrations" in the afternoon. Co-Chair
Dona Rumney reported that this addition to the Games was very well
The 50 athletes competed in a
variety of events – track and field events, table tennis, a slalom
(obstacle) race, and basketball free throw. Here's a rundown of the
Field events, 9:00 am to noon, Quadrangle
Slalom, 9:00 am to noon, Research Parking Lot
Table tennis,9:00 am to noon, Sports Center Gum
Basketball free throw, 11:00 am to noon, Research Parking Lot
Wheelchair basketball exhibition, 11;45 am to 12:30 pm, Research Parking Lot
Track events, 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, Track
Although every single athlete
in the Wheelchair Game is a winner, here are the standouts (and
teams) in each category:
Best Novice (any age) – Male: Delmace Mays
Best Junior (ages 6-22) – Male: Magiting "Kiko" Mina, Lightning Wheels; Female: Katie Brennan, HSC Cruisers
Best Adult (ages 23-34) – Male: Peter Elkinob, independent; Female: Shaniqua Freeman, Team Adapt
Best Master (ages 35-59) – Male: Mario Ojeda, Bronx VA; Female: Vernita Paige, Team Adapt
Best Senior Master (60 and over) – Female: Gloria Murray, independent
Best Field Athlete – Male: Tyler Ball, Rochester Rookies; Female: Natalia Jablonski, HSC Cruisers
Best Table Tennis Athlete – Male: Magiting "Kiko" Mina, Lightning Wheels; Female: Caitlin Goerlich, independent
Best Slalom Athlete – Male: Adrian Persap, NYRR; Female: Maggie Fusco, HSC Cruisers
And this year's winner of the prestigious Maureen Ryan-Carr Award was Charles Garcia. As more of an all-around sportsmanship award, the Maureen Ryan-Carr Award is given to the athlete who best embodies the core values and true meaning of what the Wheelchair Games.
Just as others have been for
decades, these wheelchair athletes came from all over the tri-state
area (and beyond) to compete in the 40th
edition of the Wheelchair Games at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.
The Coverage and Special
Now let's look at a few other
highlights of the Wheelchair Games . . .
Radio station WHUD set up in Burke's Garage Building and provided local coverage from 8:00 am to 10:00. WHUD's Janet May contributed to the silent auction/chance raffle, and Tom Furci provided morning entertainment.
And national coverage came from Z100 radio station (iHeart Media) in the Research Parking Lot from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, with iHeart Media's Jody Berger Wenig contributing to the silent auction/chance raffle. Z100's Garret provided the lunchtime entertainment.
The incredible (and sought-after) magician Chris Anthony performed magic tricks for the entertainment of all.
Aleksandra and Dianna Willis offered face painting and tattooing.
Burke and the Wheelchair Games
committee depend on the generosity of their gracious donors for
funding and for prizes for the athletes. Really, there are too many
to acknowledge here, so let's just consider the goody bag every
These complimentary goody bags
have in the past included items like bobble-head dolls, cough drops,
and toothbrushes. But a consistent favorite over the past several
years has been the custom-printed
from Wholesale For Everyone. According to Rumney, the athletes love
these bandanas. In fact, she pointed out, they often take out the
bandana first to wear on their heads the rest of the day.
Rumney went on to say that
is "a really great supporter of Burke's Wheelchair Games"
and that the quality of the bandanas is "great." When asked
how she liked working the Wholesale For Everyone, she said, "They
are amazing! Great. Really, really good."
Next year's 41st
annual Wheelchair Games is already in the planning stages although
the date is uncertain at this point. For next year, the Wheelchair
Games committee is handing off oversight and management of the event
to Burke's Community Relations division. But committee members will
remain available to provide any needed guidance.
So be ready: there will be a
2020 Wheelchair Games, and it will be just as spectacular as ever.