Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Charleston Veteran takes gold at Golden Age Games
Navy Veteran and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center patient Patricia Farrell-Hursey danced her way, quite literally, into her first appearance at a VA adaptive sports event – this year’s 31st National Veterans Golden Age Games held May 11 – 17 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“I was just so thrilled when I showed up and they asked me to hold the South Carolina sign during the athletes’ parade,” Hursey said. “It was like Mardi Gras with all the beads and umbrellas and the music. I was dancing up a storm!”
Hursey is one of the nearly 800 Veterans, aged 55 and older, who attended this year’s Golden Age Games, an annual VA-sponsored recreational competition event for seniors that serves as a qualifier for competition in the National Senior Games, which are held every other year.
“I’ve always wanted to participate in one of these events,” said Hursey. “I always said that I would go as soon as I turned 55 but, here I am at 62, finally attending my first one.”
As luck would have it, Hursey came home from her first Games with a gold medal in the 25 meter ambulatory women’s breaststroke, 60 - 64 age category.
“I was kind of blown away – I think the others must have been tired!” she joked. “I love the water – that’s why I joined the Navy. I like to swim because it’s good for my bones and it keeps me active. I still never thought I’d take first though!”
Hursey also competed in boccia and bowling, in which she placed 6th in her age group.
Charleston VA Recreational Therapist Cynthia Ingels was instrumental in helping Hursey navigate the application process for her attendance at the Games.
“Cindy was so helpful and really good about everything,” Hursey said. “She got me rolling with my paperwork and even set up my plane ticket for me.”
As a first-time participant, Hursey’s lodging, transportation and meals during the week-long competition were completely paid for by VA. Other VA medical centers coordinate teams and work through their local VA Voluntary Service offices to raise the money needed for returning Veteran participants to travel and compete – something Hursey would like to see Charleston VA work toward in the future.
She plans to attend the Golden Age Games next year, Aug. 3 – 8, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, though she hopes she can join up with a larger group and convince more female Veterans to compete at the event.
“It was a really great experience and I feel very grateful to the VA for this opportunity,” she said. “I met a lot of interesting people and look forward to developing more relationships next year. I want to share my story so more people will know about how wonderful these programs are and consider going.”
Other VA special events include:
- National Veterans Wheelchair Games, July 17 – 22, 2017, in Cincinnati, Ohio
- National Disabled Veterans TEE Tournament, Sept. 11 – 15, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa
- National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, Sept. 17 – 22, 2017, in San Diego, California
- National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, Oct. 29, 2017, in Buffalo, New York
- National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, April 1 – 6, 2017, in Snowmass Village, Colorado