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Disabled Veterans Join In Special Winter Sports Event In McKinley Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The first-ever winter sport event for disabled veterans was held in Chicago on Tuesday.

As CBS 2's Asal Rezaei reported, the city's Park District is hoping to empower our local veterans by getting them involved in some physical fun at the event in McKinley Park.

For Navy veteran Steve Thompson, it is the adrenaline that comes with curling that he is learning to love.

"We just had an exciting, down-to-the-minute, dramatic finish with curling and we won," Thompson said.

While it is hard to tell when watching his newly-found curling skills in action, Thompson is an amputee – and says he could not be happier around fellow veterans who are simply enjoying themselves.

"To know you can come around other veterans that understand what you're going through, can share their experiences with you," Thompson said.

Thompson was one of more than 25 disabled veterans taking part in the Chicago Park District Windy City Winter Sports Clinic in McKinley Park. It is an idea organizer Aimee Gottlieb got from a similar event in Colorado.

"It's been amazing to see so many veterans come in not just from Chicago, but we also have veterans in town from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio, and Indiana," said Gottlieb, program and event coordinator with the Chicago Park District.

Organizers are hoping by getting veterans involved in sports like this, they'll want to pursue them even once the clinics are over.

"Really gain something from this clinic, hopefully go home and be active in the winter and really shake off those pandemic blues," Gottlieb said.

Some veterans put on snowshoes, while others got a go at some all-terrain chairs. No matter what sport they played, it was how it made them feel that mattered most.

"It makes you feel great. It gives you that adrenaline rush," Thompson said. "It also gives you a sense of hey, as a youth, a younger person, as an older person, it's good to have something put a little joy into life for you."

The Chicago Park District also provides free programs weekly for veterans. They also have the summer Valor Games Midwest coming up in August.

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