Veterans with disabilities grateful as Durham organization reopens in-person sports

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Bridge II Sports' mission is to create opportunities for those with physical disabilities to find the player within throughout adaptive sports. For the past seven months, those in-person sports have been put on pause because of COVID 19 -- until Friday when the founder, Ashley Thomas, made the choice to take a calculated risk.

"People with disabilities, we take a risk every day we live," she said. "You can either live safely and never leave and you'll eventually die living safely or you can choose to live and you live with risk. I decided for the organization we would take a calculated risk and begin trying again."

"Ashley has figured out a way to keep this going," Yoneka Trent said. "I am so thankful."

Chris Thomas is also grateful for the opportunity.

"That's the kind of stuff that a lot of us, it gets us through," Thomas said "That's what gets us through month to month or week to week, day to day. When it got taken away, understandably it was like, oh man, now what."

On Friday, nine veterans participated in a veterans sports day, following COVID-19 procedures wearing masks, staying socially distant and sanitizing.

"You can see people coming in a little worried and afraid and then leaving empowered going, 'there are things I can do,'" Ashley Thomas said. "'Even with COVID there are some things I can do.' I think that's probably a message we all need to hear right now."

It certainly has been a challenge for veterans itching for competition but also camaraderie.

"It's been really tough since everything's been shut down," Chris Thomas said. "It was just so nice having that routine to go meet up with people and have something to help my body mentally and physically and then not having that ability was really hurtful. Trying to do stuff virtually, that helped a little bit to get you going. There's no substitute for being around other vets."

These athletes say the return to competition is good but being back around others in similar circumstances is vital.

"It's great," Chris Thomas said. "I mean, it's, I don't have the words to say it. It's just something that you can't substitute -- the human interaction -- and then again, the human interaction from people that are in the same boat as you. It just gives you hope and keeps you going."

Trent emphatically agreed.

"You get out and you're a veteran and you feel isolated and then you come here and the camaraderie is just priceless," Trent said. "You just don't understand how you're out here and nobody seems to understand how you feel and what you're going through. Then you come here and you don't even have to tell your story. You don't even have to say anything. You come here and the first thing they're saying is 'you can't do that' who? What? They're picking on you, saying things to you, and the first thing you do is you're busting out laughing, and you haven't laughed in forever."
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