Pickleball goal is to help veterans

Tourney to aid former servicemen who suffer from brain injuries

Posted 8/25/15

May 26, 2007, was a day Sgt. Jourdan Smith will never forget.

During a routine clearing operation in Baghdad on his second tour of duty, Smith was seriously shot in the leg, ending his military career. From this, and his exposure to multiple …

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Pickleball goal is to help veterans

Tourney to aid former servicemen who suffer from brain injuries

Posted

May 26, 2007, was a day Sgt. Jourdan Smith will never forget.

During a routine clearing operation in Baghdad on his second tour of duty, Smith was seriously shot in the leg, ending his military career. From this, and his exposure to multiple deployments and combat tours, the resulting injury left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, changing his life forever.

And Smith, a participant in the Operation TBI Freedom program of the Rocky Mountain Human Services agency, is not alone.

This year, more than 490 Colorado veterans with traumatic brain injuries are being served or have been served under Operation TBI Freedom. This program provides veterans with holistic services to help them and their families adapt their routines to the varying needs and circumstances associated with the injury.

The program has helped Smith socialize with other veterans with TBI, adapt and implement changes in his daily routine and feel more comfortable with his decisions.

Operation TBI Freedom is an opportunity, Smith said, that is worth embarking upon.

“I would tell others with TBI that this program is an incredible opportunity to learn more about what you have gone through and how to make progress so that people with a TBI can learn and adapt and grow from this experience,” he said.

Helping veterans like Smith is the reason Ken Marquardt and Mike Miles decided to create the Pickleball for Heroes Tournament.

With a passion for both pickleball — a badminton-tennis cross paddle sport — and helping U.S. veterans, Miles and Marquardt came together a few years ago and decided to host the regional event as a benefit, one they hope will continue on.

Held Sept. 3-7, Pickleball for Heroes will be a friendly tournament with more than 200 players from across the country playing in 12 divisions based on age and skill level.

“This event sets the stage for recognition of people in our community who are true heroes,” Miles said. “This is not geared towards individuals so much as it is to groups, such as firefighters, police officers, educators, military personnel, and that’s what this park is all about and that’s what this event is all about.”

Over the course of four days, players will compete in various divisions throughout the event. A double-elimination tournament, each player will play until they lose twice. Along with the games, the event will have an event to honor Operation TBI Freedom participants and military personnel as well as a Sunday-night party for all players and families.

This year, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the services and clients in the Operation TBI Freedom program.

“The story here is recognizing our heroes and the contribution they make to our lives,” Miles said. “The quality of life we’re able to live is because of these people and we need to give something back to them.”

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