WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Some of the finest wheelchair-bound athletes in the tristate area took their talents to Westchester County on Saturday, as Burke Rehabilitation Hospital hosted its annual Paralympics-style Wheelchair Games.
For the 35th straight year, the sprawling campus at Burke was transformed into an Olympic Stadium, as handicapped athletes of all ages and abilities took part in a series of track and field events that included eight races on the hospital’s wheelchair-friendly track, softball, javelin, shot put and table tennis.
Richard Sgaglio, the director of marketing and external relations at Burke said that the event started in 1979 as an event of inclusion to provide wheelchair bound athletes with a sense of competition that was lacking at the time.
“It’s not as competitive as it used to be. The spirit by which it was designed was to offer an event that all athletic abilities could participate at,” he said. “Its really just all about the cheering. It’s a way for us to bring the community together.”
Competing athletes were separated by age and athletic ability, with the Future Division for children, Juniors Division for athletes between the ages of 7 and 21 and the Master Division for everyone else. This year, nearly 100 athletes were registered to show off their skills.
“It’s like having the Paralympics in your backyard,” Tracey Bogard, the Wheelchair Games co-chair said. “It truly is an inspiring event and every year, Burke is proud to host such an amazing group of athletes.”
It wasn’t all about the athletes at Burke on Saturday. More than 250 volunteers that arranged and operated the Wheelchair Games also provided all comers with lunch, carnival games and a series of raffles with proceeds benefitting the hospital’s causes.
“The whole thing is run by more than 250 volunteers. We have a lot of supporters from around the county, be it at colleges, senior living facilities or otherwise. It’s truly a big undertaking, but it fits our mission to provide care for the community,” Sgaglio said. “Here, no one is disabled today.”
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