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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Adaptive curling at Hart Park

on the sheet

Harry Ibis, with VA's Erinn Kulba, launches a stone at the Wauwatosa Curling Club at Hart Park. A curling volunteer donates time and space to the Veterans from the Milwaukee VA 2-3 times month.

By Benjamin Slane, photos Benjamin Slane
Thursday, February 19, 2015

A gentlemen’s game.

That’s what they say curling is. Quiet. Quieter than golf.

But don’t tell that to this group of spinal-cord injury Veterans from the Milwaukee VA who took part in curling in early February at Wauwatosa Curling Club in Hart Park.

Instead of subtly congratulating each other with, “Good curl,” the traditional response, it’s more like, “Nice stones!”  followed by a lot of loud laughter.

Curling consists of sliding 38-44 lb. granite rocks across a 120-foot span of ice called a sheet. If one of the team’s eight rocks, through curling the stone on the ice, stops in the house, it is scored. A game generally consists of 8-10 iterations or ends. There is much more to it, but that is the gist.

The world of adaptive sports is fast growing in the Veteran world. Sports like curling are adapted to accompany various types of physical injuries. For instance, the curling stone is generally pushed across the ice with a hand, but there are adapted sticks designed to fit the stone. Then, the Veteran may remain seated or stand. 

“This is a lot of fun,” said Marine Veteran Harry Ibis. “This is just like bocce ball and I like it.”

Ibis said some wheelchair-bound people have a difficult time engaging in their community. The curling club is an outlet. He likes to pay it forward by encouraging other people to give it a try.

“It is just very encouraging, and gets us out in the community,” Ibis said. “It is relieving to do this, and do this with other Vets who understand.”

And that is where the laughter comes in. Although rules require quiet, for this group of Vets tradition is all but thrown away. The idea of participating in a sport long thought to be only for the able-bodied makes it more exciting.

It doesn’t always go as planned. One VA nurse who was participating with the Veterans launched the rock from his hip onto the ice. It looked like he was throwing a bowling ball instead of using finesse. The rock landed with a thud and ice chunks ice flew.

The Veterans a looked at each other and burst into laughter.

A member of the Wauwatosa Curling club, Allen Miller, volunteers his time and reserves the ice for the Veterans every couple of weeks. He smiles at the group of Veterans lauding each other after a few perfectly landed shots.

“Very nice Terrence, you are a natural,” said Miller.

“I do this out of respect those who served,” Miller said. “For the physical limitations these Vets have, it is rewarding. Not only rewarding to share with everyone, but especially to share with Veterans.”

Interested in recreational therapy programs? Talk with your primary care provider or social worker.


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