Pinehurst resident William Hendrickson is shown here competing at the 36th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, which were held from June 27 through July 2. Hendricks competed in several events and brought home two gold medals in the Motorized Rally and Motorized Slalom events.

Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

Local resident William Hendrickson has returned home triumphant after competing in a national contest in Utah earlier this month.

Hendrickson, a resident of Pinehurst, recently returned from the 36th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, which were held from June 27 through June 2. Not only did he compete in multiple events, but Hendrickson returned home to Orange County with two gold medals.

Hendrickson competed in the discuss, shot put, javelin, power soccer, motor rally and the obstacle course. He was his gold medals in the motorized rally event and in the motorized slalom, also referred to as an obstacle course, which he has won each year he has attended.

Hendrickson was in the United States Army from 1984 to 1986, but his military career ended abruptly when he was injured following a training incident. Despite his injuries, he has refused to let this keep him from living his life and preparing year in and year out to participate in these games.

Pinehurst resident William Hendrickson raises his hand in victory as he crosses the finish line in the motorized slalom and claims the gold medal in the contest at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. This year's event was held from June 27 through July 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hendrickson also claimed gold in the motorized rally event.

Pinehurst resident William Hendrickson raises his hand in victory as he crosses the finish line in the motorized slalom and claims the gold medal in the contest at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. This year’s event was held from June 27 through July 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hendrickson also claimed gold in the motorized rally event.

“This is what I do, and this is my passion,” Hendrickson said. “It’s my 11th year to attend and it is the 11th year I have won the gold medal in the obstacle course.”

According to its official website, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games are an outgrowth of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ historic involvement in wheelchair sports. Wheelchair sports had their beginning in the aftermath of World War II, when young disabled Veterans began playing wheelchair basketball in VA hospitals throughout the United States. Interest in wheelchair basketball soon spread to other sports such as track and field, bowling, swimming, and archery, spawning the formation of several associations devoted to new and innovative wheelchair sports.

While the participation of paralyzed and other disabled Veterans continued to flourish during the intervening years, it was not until 1980, when VA established a Recreation Therapy Service, that VA’s efforts brought about an enhanced awareness of the rehabilitative value of wheelchair athletics. Since then, VA therapists have used wheelchair sports as a therapeutic tool for treating Veterans with disabilities.

More than 650 athletes traveled to Utah to participate in this year’s games, but, for many, the long journey to Salt Lake City would not have been possible without the generosity of those who help sponsor the participants.

“It costs between $1,500 and $2,000 each year to get to these events,” Hendrickson explained. “These sponsors help me through their support to be able to do what I love to do.”

Sponsors who helped make Hendrickson’s dream a victorious reality this year include Robert’s Steakhouse, Triple L Motor Sports, Marvel Vape Shop, Carl’s Jr., Southern Glass, Swamp Pop, NAPA, Granger Chevrolet, Sabine River Ford and the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2523.

“I can’t thank everyone enough who helped me, supported me and believed in me,” Hendrickson added. “I spend all year waiting on this and I recharge my soul when I’m participating in it. It’s what I love to do, and I’m so glad I could bring back these medals and show some pride for our community”

Hendrickson will soon begin preparing for next year’s event, which will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio.