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The Spirit of Inclusion

Reprinted from SNS September 2017

Giving everyone a chance to participate at the Burke Wheelchair Games

When Paralympians Jessica Galli and Maggie Redden first competed in the Burke Wheelchair Games just outside New York City during the 1990s, they raced in their everyday wheelchairs in a parking lot outside the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, trying to keep within racing lines drawn by chalk. 

“The parking lot was filled with vans and campers, with people sleeping in their cars throughout the whole weekend to both participate and watch,” says Roger Mutter, who at the age of 69 will be competing in the Burke Wheelchair Games for the 25th time this year.

That was back before adaptive sports started creeping into mainstream conversation and media around the world. 

For more than three decades now, athletes with an impairment in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area have assembled at the Burke Wheelchair Games as an all-inclusive invitational meet, and its aim remains the same today.

“The Burke Wheelchair Games started before the surge of adaptive sports. Thirty or 40 years ago there weren’t the opportunities that adaptive athletes have today,” says Richard Sgaglio, the senior administrator of marketing, communications and development at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, who also serves on the organizing committee for the Games. “We’ve kept the Games about the spirit of inclusion rather than the spirit of competition. It’s a competitive event in that we have winners and accolades, but it’s really about getting people out to compete and the camaraderie around that.”

The 38th annual Burke Wheelchair Games will be held on Sept. 23, with around 70 athletes expected to compete across four categories: Futures Division (ages 6 and under), Junior Division, Adult Division and Masters Division. Field events, table tennis and an obstacle course will get underway at 9 a.m., with track events beginning at 1:30 p.m. The Games will also feature family-friendly musical entertainment, silent auctions and raffles.

Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in Westchester County, just outside New York City, is a nonprofit acute rehabilitation hospital that offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for those who have experienced a disabling illness, traumatic injury or surgery.

Once a year, the storied 61-acre Burke campus is transformed into a forum for sportsmanship, camaraderie and determination, while also showing the public the therapeutic benefits of sports.

“The Burke Wheelchair Games have always been the highest class of the invitational form of competition in whatever sports they’ve offered,” Mutter says. “But it also doesn’t make any difference how good you are. It’s all-inclusive.”

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The Spirit of Inclusion


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