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Sports programs for disabled veterans expanding

1st Lt. Ryan McGuire (right) sprints the last leg of the 1,500m dash to take fourth place during the Warrior Games May 14, 2010, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

Department of Veterans Affairs officials are providing grants to enhance recreation and sporting activities for disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Bendet)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Department of Veterans Affairs officials are awarding two grants totaling $7.5 million to the U.S. Olympic Committee to enhance recreation and sporting activities for disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces.

"Many of our veterans have experienced traumatic injuries while at the peak of their physical conditioning," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Our partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee will aid in their recovery by allowing them to engage in therapeutic sporting events and competition right in their own communities."

Under terms of the grant agreements, funding will be provided to the Olympic Committee's member organizations, Paralympic sports clubs and veteran and military organizations nationwide to implement community-based, physical activity programs for disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces. Disabled veterans can locate adaptive sporting events in their communities at www.usparalympics.org.

Public Law 110-389 authorized VA officials to award grants to the U.S. Olympic Committee to plan, manage and implement an adaptive sports program.

"This support from Veterans Affairs will have far reaching impact in communities around the country," said Charlie Huebner, the chief of U.S. Paralympics. "We know that sports and physical activity can have a transformative effect on those with a physical disability.

"These funds will help our community partners to expand and provide greater access to sports programs for injured veterans, disabled members of the armed forces and all living in their local area with a physical disability," Mr. Huebner said.

Additionally, Christopher J. Nowak has been selected to be the director of the VA Paralympics Program Office.

Since 1999, Mr. Nowak has served as a prosthetics manager for VA Healthcare Veterans Integrated Service Network 4, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware and parts of West Virginia, New Jersey and New York. A 17-year veteran of VA, he directs a $92 million budget and all prosthetics operations for 10 VA medical centers.

Mr. Nowak joined the Marine Corps 1983. His military career ended in 1987, when the then-infantry squad leader lost his right leg to friendly fire during a routine training exercise. He is a champion of sports rehabilitation for wounded service members and veterans. He has developed and co-chaired "First Swing" and "Next Step" golf clinics for amputee veterans and is a former member of the USA Amputee Hockey Team.

(Courtesy Department of Veteran Affairs Public Affairs)

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