Bocce ball tournament serves as rehabilitation for paralyzed veterans

Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 6:37 PM CST
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HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Who thought playing a game could do so much good?

When sports are adapted to allow for disabled participants, it opens a whole new world to them.

At a hurricane shelter in Harrison County, a group of veterans are rehabilitating themselves by playing bocce ball.

Veterans with debilitating injuries who might otherwise feel trapped in their homes are engaging, exercising and having fun.

Lloyd “The Misfit” Thomas’s left leg was amputated a year ago, but he is not letting it slow him down.

“Adaptive sports has opened me up to, as a result of my new disability, the fact that I just don’t have to roll over in life and tell myself that it’s all over. It exposes me to a whole 'nother world. New activities, events, new relationships,” he said.

The local chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America is staging a bocce ball tournament this weekend for their members. It is one of several events they put on each year including a skeet shoot, fishing, picnics, basketball and the Veterans’ Wheelchair Games. The events serve to provide the veterans with a greater sense of belonging and purpose.

“We put on a lot of events to try to get them back into participating and getting them out into the community,” said Jennie Conley, executive director of the Bayou States Chapter, Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We use it as a form of rehabilitation.”

Watching the veterans compete, you don’t see them as being disabled at all. The fire to compete is clearly still in their heart.

James Scott of New Orleans came to the event last year as a volunteer. He played one game and has been competing ever since. The tournament is one of many activities the paralyzed veteran participates in.

“I haven’t been able to ride my bike because of the weather, and today was like getting out of the house for the first time in quite a while and doing something,” he said with a satisfied smile.

The tournament picks up Saturday at 9 a.m.

Disabled veterans are invited to come out to the hurricane shelter on County Farm Road and participate or at least get out and visit.

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