At Spinal Injury Games, a wheelchair is no limitation

DOWNEY - Hundreds of current and former patients of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center participated in the hospital's annual sports spectacular, the Spinal Injury Games, last Friday on the Rancho campus."This was an incredibly successful day, as our patients showed how much ability remains despite the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury," Rancho CEO Jorge Orozco said. "Many of our patients train hard for this day…and they amaze us every year with their dedication and their athletic accomplishments." The five-hour event was funded by the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation. The Spinal Injury Games included competitions in football, lacrosse, over-the-line baseball, golf putting, football accuracy throw, power soccer, hockey shot, bowling and H-O-R-S-E (basketball). There was also a tennis clinic, a series of wheelchair races and the obstacle course competition that traditionally completes the day's activities. "This was a great day for all the athletes, as well as the many members of the community who joined us on the athletic field today," said Rob Welty, a Rancho outpatient and former All-American wheelchair basketball star, who now coaches the Rancho Wheelchair Sports teams. The community members included Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe. He showed a deft touch joining patients for a game of "H-O-R-S-E", sinking basket after basket while being seated in a wheelchair. "Days like this are what Rancho is all about…the Spinal Injury Games is just another example of how our patients do incredible things on their personal roads to independence," he said. "Being out here and seeing first-hand the dedication and talent of these exceptional Rancho patients is very meaningful and inspirational for everyone." Rancho's CEO also got into a wheelchair and mixed it up with patients in the hotly contested football game. "The patients give everything they have on every play, and they made some unbelievable plays during our game," he said. "It's an honor to share the field with our patients, who should be applauded for the effort they put forth." Event Chair Adam Wilson, a Rancho Recreation Therapist, reported that patient participation increased dramatically this year. "The entire Spinal Injury Games team should be congratulated for creating a safe and fun atmosphere for our patients to show their skills and have a lot of fun," he said. "I really enjoyed playing quarterback today," said Rancho patient Hugo "Juice" Duran, who hooked up with his receivers on a number of long pass plays. "I feel just great about what I accomplished out here today," he said. "I'll tell you, I've never seen anybody play with the fire and ability our patients showed today," said Rancho Patient Advocate Gilbert Salinas, a former spinal cord patient at Rancho long before he became a Rancho staff member. "What I enjoy about this day is that there is a sport for everyone, no matter the level of their injury. During the Spinal Injury Games, the field of play becomes a field of hope for everyone who participates." While the football game featured nonstop action and many full-speed crashes where participants often flew out of their wheelchairs, many of the games emphasized concentration over power. For example, in the football accuracy throw, athletes tested their balance and ability to throw a football through a stationary tire. In the game of H-O-R-S-E, men and women, girls and boys competed on even terms. In bowling, patients showed their ability to aim and roll the ball at the pins. Amazingly, most patients made either a strike or a spare in each frame they bowled. Most patients also put the ball through the tire in the football accuracy throw. And the shooting on the basketball court in the H-O-R-S-E game was simply incredible. "I saw seven straight shots from the free throw line and beyond go in, which would be outstanding for able-bodied athletes," Supervisor Knabe said. "I am very impressed with each and every one of the patient/athletes who competed in this wonderful day of sports competition and camaraderie." But it wasn't just the athletes who made this day so special. A team of Rancho staff members worked for months to make the day fun for the patients. A number of patients competed to create the design for the event t-shirt. Patient and musician Charles Whitehead gave up an entire day to serve as the Master of Ceremonies. And an array of vendors provided vital information to the participants throughout the day. Even the Laker Girls showed up to sign autographs for participants. "When you see so many courageous individuals who have come such a long way back from devastating injuries, it makes you proud to be part of the Rancho family," Jorge said. "I salute each and every one of our employees for the work they do each day to help our remarkable patients maximize their potential and realize their dreams." For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit, or

********** Published: October 13, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 26