ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - Hundreds of athletes will be rolling into Pittsburgh next year, but they won't be on bicycles or skates. Two local men are going to those games and are asking for your help.
You might not think it's a big deal for Bill Lightner to take down eight pins at Holiday Bowl in Altoona; but does it change your mind when you find out he’s in a wheelchair?
“About 22 years ago I was in an automobile accident it left me paralyzed and as soon as I was able to get out of the hospital bed I started participating in sports,” Lightner, who is a four year Air Force veteran of Hollidaysburg, said.
Because he likes sports, getting involved in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games was an easy decision for Bill. Next year it will be even easier for him to compete because they're coming to Pittsburgh.
“You watch somebody who has completely overcome a serious disability and they don't let it get in their way, they're so motivated, they're very competitive, they want to win,” Steve Young of Pittsburgh V-A said.
The Pittsburgh V-A needs a lot of help before the 2011 games. They need more volunteers to run the events, money to cover the competitors' expenses, and most importantly they need more veterans.
“I'd like to see more sip and puff veterans in chairs out there get involved and realize like I did that paralyzed vets and the V-A has done a lot for me and got me activated and got me going and gave me a new life,” Gib Gutshall, a four year Air Force veteran from Altoona, said.
More than five hundred veterans will compete in the games. You can count on Bill and Gib being in Pittsburgh for the 31st year of competitions. Bringing home medals is a goal for both guys, but...
“Medals are fun to win, but the games mean a lot more. We talk about everything from our home life to the health care we get from the V-A, everyday life, the obstacles of everyday life,” Lightner said.
The Pittsburgh V-A is having a Charlie Daniels Band concert on June 4th in the city. All of the proceeds from that concert go towards the wheelchair games for 2011.