Wheelchair Willie goes for more gold
Cutline: Orange’s “Wheelchair Willie” Hendrickson, 51, won three gold medals at the recent National Veterans Wheelchair Games, winning the motorized slalom competition for the 12th straight year.
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Orange’s William “Wheelchair Willie” Hendrickson, 51, won his 12th straight gold medal in the motorized slalom competition at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games held last month in Cincinnati.
Hendrickson, an Army veteran and native of California, was left 100 percent disabled after breaking his neck during his service, moved to Pinehurst in 2014.
He has been traveling to compete in the NVWG, a 19-event adaptive sports carnival put on each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Vets of America.
“I enjoy getting out there and showing people that just because I’m disabled that doesn’t mean we’re done,” said the man who sported a red, white and blue mohawk hairdo in Cincinnati.
Hendrickson won gold medals in discus, power soccer and motorized slalom this year, along with a bronze in motor rally.
“I usually bring back two to three gold medals,” he said, admitting he had lost count over the years.
The NVWG is an event held in different locations each year, but Hendrickson, who lives on a fixed income with his wife Amy and 8-year-old son Daniel, does his own fundraising to pay for the travel.
“Without the help of the city and numerous citizens, I wouldn’t get to go and do the things I love,” he said.
Wheelchair Willie’s sponsors include Orange County Eagle Riders, Granger Chevrolet, Sabine River Ford, Marvel Bake Shop, Johnson’s Mini Storage, CarWorks, Robert’s Meat Market, Potter’s, Scott’s Floral, Southern Glass, Apex Sound, Odile’s Interiors, Mobil Wash & Go, U Rent All, and Triple L Motorsports.
The motorized slalom is an obstacle course for wheelchairs and their drivers. The racers compete on time and are charged with penalties for knocking over cones.
“It’s my 12th year to take the gold,” Hendrickson said. “Nobody’s beaten me.”