Jimmy Green was paralyzed in 1986 while serving the the Army. His spine was crushed when the truck he was in hit an IED and rolled over.
Back home, Green was unhappy living as just another statistic in the rolls of wounded warriors. Though he couldn’t walk or run, he could still shoot a basketball, and found an outlet for his talents in the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Green admits, his first impression of the league wasn’t much.
“When I heard wheelchair basketball, the image I had in my head was maybe just some guys rolling onto a court and maybe throwing a ball around,” he said. “It is tough.”
After a few weeks of training and games, Green found wheelchair basketball provides more than just physical exercise, but an opportunity to join other veterans, many of them adapting to the same life changes he once faced after becoming paralyzed.
“I relive the moment that I had just through them,” he said. “It is a beautiful thing. I just love to do it.”
The VA understands how important adaptive sports programs are to veterans like Green, and has awarded $14.8 million in grants to Veterans Service Organizations and city and regional municipalities for programs like wheelchair basketball, cycling, kayaking, and archery. One and a half million is earmarked for equine-assisted therapy, which has proven effective in supporting mental health.
“Adaptive sports help Veterans thrive both physically and mentally as they challenge their inner strength and open pathways to community integration,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are honored to partner with over 120 organizations dedicated to providing adaptive sports and equine-assisted activities to help Veterans discover what’s next, not just in sports, but also in life.”
In all, 126 grants have been awarded to national, regional and community programs, reaching about 11,000 veterans and service members, the VA reports.
Grant recipients may use the funds to planning, developing, managing and implementing adaptive sports programs, so long as they ultimately benefit veterans with disabilities and disabled members of the Armed Forces.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.