The National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which represent the largest of their kind in the world, are being waged in the Pittsburgh area from Aug. 1-6, and Whitehall Borough's Princess Lanes in Caste Village ended up being an ideal location for the Games' bowling event.
The Games offer 17 different sports to U.S. military veterans who use wheelchairs due to spinal-cord injuries, amputations and/or neurological diseases, promoting rehabilitation through competition.
Past Games have produced national and world-class champions while also providing opportunities for newly disabled veterans to gain sports skills and be exposed to other wheelchair athletes.
Dennis Scott, general manager at Princess Lanes, said that the bowling center was happy to host part of the Games. While Princess Lanes is a for-profit company, the business opened up several lanes for free on Wednesday specifically for the wheelchair competition.
"They (the Games committee) approached us because they had a similar tournament here previously and because we have one level that the wheelchairs don't have to go up," Scott said. "We also have a handicapped ramp outside. The facility just makes this all the better to do.
"We're happy to help out with veterans, and I think everybody enjoyed themselves and had a good time. And we appreciate the service that these people have done."
Ed "Frenchy" DesLauriers, 59, an Army veteran originally from Lower Burrell, PA, was among the competitors on Wednesday. DesLauriers also competed in archery on Wednesday morning prior to coming to Princess Lanes at around 1 p.m. to bowl.
"To be honest with you, I really suck at bowling," he said with a laugh, "but I bowled well today.
"My best event is actually the 100-meter sprint in track."
DesLauriers, who served in the Army from from 1969 to 1971 and was paralyzed below his belly button in 1986 after a train-vehicle accident, also will compete in softball during the 2011 Games.
"Everybody has been so super," he said. "They have over 3,000 volunteers for this. Over 670 veterans signed up for this; they broke a record this year.
"This is quite an awesome undertaking, not just for the City of Pittsburgh but for all of the volunteers and all of the people like Bill Leuthold, who is the coordinator of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games here in Pittsburgh. He's done an awesome job.
"I just can't say enough about him for everything that he's done and the commitment that he's made to make these just the best Games ever."
The Games are split into different categories based on experience/age and disability. Medalists are crowned in each category for every sport.