Wheel Chair Olympics
Written by James Ryan, patient at Goldwater Memorial Hospital,
Welfare Island, New York.
Goldwater Memorial Hospital is the first hospital built from
public funds for the treatment of those suffering from disorders
of a chronic nature. All but a few of its patients spend their
days in Wheelchairs. The recreation program for this Community
on Wheels was founded by Beatrice Hill less than a decade
ago, and is now under the leadership of John J. Gehan.
Our recent carnival set a high water mark for special
events. Participants as well as spectators spent a colorful
and happy day under the sunny September skies. In keeping with
the trend toward that which is timely, the festival bore the
name Wheelchair Olympics. Each of the four buildings
of the hospital was represented by a team. Under a canopy of
flags from all nations, the various events were held on the
driveway which is part of the terrace. Enthusiastic onlookers
from the many porches cheered their favorites as the events
were run off.
All entrants participated in their wheelchairs. There were wheelchair
sprints, obstacle races, and a novelty event in which two wheelchairs
were joined together. For the less hearty participants, there
was a watermelon and pie-eating contest, and word-games for
those whose physical capacities are limited. A wheelchair game
resembling the old-time party favorite, Going to Jerusalem,
enabled everybody -- regardless of their disabilities -- to
participate. Volunteers acting as wheelchair chauffeurs, provided
ready and willing hands where need of help was indicated. In
keeping with the carnival theme, a supply depot of hot-dogs,
punch, and ice cream was handily adjacent. While wheelchair
athletes took time out between events, the New York City Fire
Department Band added to the festive air.
Recreation under the Goldwater plan is so designed as to allow
the patients themselves the maximum amount of self-help. Each
of the four teams represented had a captain, who assumed the
responsibility of having his teammates available when needed.
James Seaborn, a rheumatoid arthritic, handled the public-address
system, acting as announcer, starter, and scorekeeper.
An affair of this nature is not an attempt at a substitute for
reality, but finds its purpose in bringing about a happier and
more complete community. Woven throughout the days program
was the golden thread of therapy that improves morale and stimulates
imagination. The creation of an even greater bond between the
volunteers and the patients cemented that relationship with
memories that are mutually pleasant. Here was an event where
everyone played a art and each could say the job was well done.
[The group of patient representatives of the recreation program
at Goldwater will long be remembered by delegates to the 35th
National Recreation Congress in Philadelphia, 1953, where this
group appeared and described their program. See Recreation,
c: NRPA all rights reserved