Jefferson County vets encouraged to play "Games"

By Steve Sharp:

JEFFERSON -- Eligible veterans from around Jefferson County are encouraged to get into training to participate in the 34th National Veterans Golden Age Games set for Madison in 2020.

Jefferson County Veterans Service Officer Yvonne Duesterhoeft and her colleagues Dodge County are excited about the possibility of perhaps having the area's first veteran ever take part in the 2020 games -- and so close to home in the state capital.

"When a veteran comes into the office here, I find myself kind of eyeing them up to see what sport they might be good at," Duesterhoeft said with a laugh.

The National Veterans Golden Age Games is the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States, and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

"The VA challenges and encourages senior veterans to be proactive in embracing a healthier lifestyle, thus achieving the NVGAG 'Fitness for Life' motto," the event website states.

The 33rd edition of the games is scheduled to take place in Anchorage, Alaska, in June.

The games are open to veterans, ages 55 or older, who receive health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans must be eligible for VA Healthcare to participate.

Among the many sports that comprise the games are air pistol and air rifle shooting, badminton, basketball, boccia, bowling, cycling, disc golf, golf, horseshoes, nine-ball billiards, pickleball, power walking, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis, and track and field.

Joe Naylor of Lake Mills, president of the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission, is also the coordinator of the local organizing committee for the National Veterans Golden Age Games. He is based out of the Wm. S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison and is preparing to travel to Anchorage to learn more about how to present the games in Madison in 2020.

To the best of Naylor's knowledge, there has never been a veteran from Jefferson County who has participated in the games, so he and Duesterhoeft are excited at the prospect of perhaps finding some athletes from this area.

"The games offer an opportunity for competition and camaraderie for participants, while sharing in physical activity with other veterans from around the  country," Naylor said, adding 47 states were represented at the games in 2018.
In addition to being good for the veterans, their families and friends, the games offer considerable benefits to host communities.

Naylor said there are positive economic impacts presented by the games.
"An estimated 1,200 people, including participants and guests, attend the annual National Veterans Golden Age Games," he said. "The total economic  impact is estimated to be $3 million of increased economic activity for the host communities."

A host community can expect to receive significant media attention as the selected site for the games. This includes television, radio, World Wide Web and social media coverage, as well as print and digital publicity. The host community will have access to NVGAG logos and branding for approved marketing purposes.
"And then there is something we call 'event legacy,'" Naylor said. "Events like the NVGAG leave a community with a valuable resource in place, staff leadership, community cohesiveness, increased public awareness and appreciation for people with disabilities and a large volunteer base with identified key persons who have the knowledge necessary to produce other successful events in the community," he said.

According to Naylor, thousands of NVGAG volunteers, ranging from teenagers to senior adults, " ... will be exposed to achievement-oriented, physically active senior veterans who present an image that everyone can admire."

There are numerous opportunities for people to get involved in helping with the games as civilians or participating themselves as veterans.

"We will be looking to staff 2,000 volunteer shifts and will rely heavily on local donations that are tax exempt, such as in-kind, monetary, services, goods," Naylor said. "Our biggest current need is to locate storage for equipment and supplies scheduled to arrive from Alaska in late June, this summer. We will also have a need for volunteers and local sponsors. We are truly excited and honored to be able to host the games."

Those who can help with this veterans endeavor are asked to contact Naylor at 608-256-1901, ext. 11494, or
"And we are interested in having as many local veterans participate as possible," Naylor added.