GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids police officers and firefighters teamed up to play wounded veterans in a softball game for charity Wednesday.
The game at Fifth Third Ballpark raised money for Mary Free Bed and VETSports, a non-profit organization that helps veterans overcome their injuries through adaptive sports and rehabilitation programs.
Grand Rapids Police and Fire Departments won 18-10 over the VETSport’s Veterans, but players say the game was about more than the score as several local wounded veterans were able to play in front of family and friends for the first time since returning from war.
Taylor Urrela, whose leg was damaged beyond repair in 2006 by a roadside bomb during his tour in Iraq, says he never thought he would be able to play sports again until he and fellow wounded veteran Randy Tharp founded VETSports.
Urrella says it not only helps with the physical wounds, but also his Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. “Helping others has gotten me kind of out of that dark cloud and into a far better place,” he said.
He and other participants in VETSports travel the country playing softball against police and fire departments.
Grand Rapids Police and Fire say they jumped at the opportunity. “We can raise a little money for them, have fun, and just show them that we’re here to support them,” Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Matt Janiskee said.
Before the game began, a moment of silence was held for Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, who was killed in the line of duty Sept. 9.
Urrella says VETSports is the answer to a lot of problems veterans face upon returning from war. They will accommodate any veteran no matter their disability. As they travel and compete in these games they hope to recruit local veterans to create their own VETSport’s leagues and teams all over the country. You can reach VETSports on their website or Facebook page.