Sports Camp Encourages Fitness for Wounded Warriors

May 14, 2009, 1:23 p.m. (ET)

FT. LEWIS, Wash.--At the age of five, Susannah Scaroni was paralyzed in a car accident. Now, 17-year-old Scaroni is a competitive wheelchair racer and is helping expose Wounded Warriors to the sport that she loves.

During a four-day Paralympic military regional sports camp hosted by the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Lewis, more than 30 WTB Soldiers and veterans were introduced to adaptive rowing, sitting volleyball, track and field, and swimming. The camp was sponsored by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Scaroni, whose brother is a member of the National Guard and is currently serving in Iraq, showed wounded and injured Soldiers how to use a racing wheelchair and provided instruction on body and hand position.

"This is very cool," Scaroni said. "The Soldiers sound really excited about being active again."

The military sports camps help foster the development of sports and fitness programs for wounded and injured military personnel as part of their recovery and continued transition in life.

"We were thrilled to host the Paralympic military regional sports camp here, enabling our Warriors and other veterans to improve their physical and mental fitness," said Lt. Col. K.C. Bolton, commander of the WTB. "The camp allowed Warriors to build upon not only their physical fitness but also their self-confidence."

The camp trainers are members of the U.S. Paralympics coaching staff, and were able to adapt every exercise regardless of the participant's disability.

"No matter what the injury, the Soldier could participate," said Lesley Vaughn, chief occupational therapist for the WTB.

Many of the Soldiers were trying an adaptive sport for the first time, and Scaroni was excited to see them eager to learn.

"They are very interested," Scaroni said. "One guy even bought his own racing chair already."

The Warrior Transition Unit was one of the recommendations outlined in the Army Medical Action Plan to develop a holistic, sustainable system where Soldiers are supported, treated and vocationally rehabilitated to prepare them to successfully return to duty or transition to civilian life.

U.S. Paralympics partners with community groups and military installations to help connect injured military personnel with sports programming in their local communities so Soldiers can continue to participate when they return home.