VA Western New York Healthcare System
Kathleen Garvey will not be slowed down. The 61-year old from Buffalo lives as enthusiastically as anyone you’d care to meet. We spoke with her by phone in February in anticipation of the 2013 National Veterans Golden Age Games, where she will be a competitor and demonstrator.
“I’d like to get at least one gold, and medal in all three events,” she says of her plans. This year Kathleen will be competing in the 25-meter freestyle and backstroke, as well as the half mile bike dash. Additionally, she will participate in the first-ever sled hockey demonstration at the Games. Kathleen has been an ambassador for the sport of sled hockey ever since she first tried it in 2012. But it wasn’t always easy. “When I started, I was usually on my side more than I was upright,” she says. “But it helped me build up my strength. I really enjoy going fast, and now it feels like I’m flying across the ice.”
Sled hockey has also led to new friendships. Being the only woman on the team, the guys sometimes tease her about the pink straps she uses to hold her on her sled. But it’s all in fun. Garvey loves being part of a team, and has since she played basketball in high school and swam in college. She credits VA recreational therapists Pam Kaznowski and Ralph Sirianni with keeping the team motivated. “They are just so positive that they help us do better as a team.”
As with any physical exercise, there have been health benefits to playing sled hockey and training for swimming and biking. Kathleen swims twice a week to prepare for the Games and says she’s lowered her weight and her bad cholesterol. And once you get going, she says, there is a physical feeling of well-being that comes from a good workout. “It really gets the endorphins flowing.”
But Kathleen’s not just preparing for a good time at the Games. She wants to win. “I’ve always been very competitive. When I decided to compete this year, I looked up the winning times from last year. That’s the goal I’ve been training to beat. I know it won’t be easy.” She’ll be inspired by her mother, who won a gold medal in the Senior Games years ago despite having multiple sclerosis. For others who are thinking about competing, she has some advice. “Just get out there and do it. There’s nothing to lose. If you can’t compete in one of the sports, just come out and try the sled hockey. Or play checkers. You’ll fit in no matter what. And one more thing,” she says as we end the call: “Go Army!”
The National Veterans Golden Age Games will take place May 30 to June 4 in Buffalo, NY. Visit the Web site for the Games to find out more.