Five Local Veterans Representing the VA Maryland Health Care System Compete in the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games

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For the first time since 2002, five Maryland Veterans representing the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, held June 25-30 in Richmond, Va.

The Maryland team, known as The Chesapeake Wheelers, brought home a dozen medals and consisted of Ventura Catala from Laurel, Md.; Brian Augustyniak, from Baltimore; James Ogles, from Finksburg, Md.;

“I love these Games because of what it makes me strive for and because they motivate me to never give up, never surrender to my disability or despair,” says Catala, who brought home gold medals in discus and javelin and a silver medal in shot put.

For the first time since 2002, five Maryland Veterans representing the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, held June 25-30 in Richmond, Va. The Maryland team, known as The Chesapeake Wheelers, brought home a dozen medals and consisted of Ventura Catala from Laurel, Md.; Brian Augustyniak, from Baltimore; James Ogles, from Finksburg, Md.; Larry Hughes from Windsor Mills, Md.; and Joseph Singleton, from Columbia, Md. Joining the more than 600 Veteran athletes from across the nation as part of the weeklong event were participants from Puerto Rico and Great Britain.
Sponsored annually by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America, and co-hosted this year by the McGuire VA Medical Center and the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Games showcase the athletic prowess of wheelchair athletes receiving care from VA medical centers and outpatient clinics. The Veterans participate in a variety of events such as basketball, bowling, track and field, hand cycling, air gun, archery, motorized rally, nine-ball, quad rugby, power soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis, trapshooting, weightlifting and slalom, among other sports.

“I love these Games because of what it makes me strive for and because they motivate me to never give up, never surrender to my disability or despair,” says Catala, who brought home gold medals in discus and javelin and a silver medal in shot put.

    Other team members of The Chesapeake Wheelers also brought home medals, including Augustyniak, who won gold medals in weight lifting and javelin and a silver in shot put; Ogles, who brought home three gold medals in archery, trapshooting and table tennis and a bronze in air rifle; Hughes, who won two gold medals in shot put and discus and a silver in javelin, and Singleton who won a gold in weightlifting and a bronze in table tennis.

    The Chesapeake Wheelers group participated in air rifle, archery, discus, shot put, javelin, 200/400 meter, trapshooting, table tennis, nine-ball, wheelchair basketball, and table tennis in the hope of bringing home gold, silver and bronze medals.
“We hope to have an increasingly larger group participating every year,” says Shermaine Johnson, CTRS, supervisor of Recreation Therapy at the VA Maryland Health Care System, noting that while at the Games wheelchair athletes also share their stories and information about the array of sporting opportunities available to disabled Veterans and the need to stay active.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, go to http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/wcg or contact Jordan Schupbach at Jordan.schuphach(at)va(dot)gov or call 202-664-3733.

The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to veterans at two medical centers, one community living & rehabilitation center and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from the VAMHCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, the VAMHCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for Veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a Veteran can do. For information about VA health care eligibility and enrollment or how to apply for a VA medical care hardship to avoid future copayments for VA health care, interested Veterans are urged to call the Enrollment Center for the VA Maryland Health Care System, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or visit http://www.maryland.va.gov.

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Rosalia Scalia
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