Kathreen Jones was a cryptologic technician in the U.S. Navy. “Frankly, I loved it,” she says. “I loved everything about being in the Navy. Although my plan was cut short when I was diagnosed with MS after two years of service.”
After she was discharged, she went to school and became a registered nurse, thinking she had her MS under control. But after about three years, she realized the disease was affecting her ability to properly care for her patients and she had to step away from the profession.
“I was in the prime of my life when MS took it down,” she recalls. The single mother of three now had to figure out how to parent and live life with her physical limitations. She sent the kids to live with their dad and did a little traveling, eventually settling down in Newport News in her own apartment.
After a bad fall, realizing she needed physical therapy and other assistance, she met someone from the VA who introduced her to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. She thought sure; why not? And her relationship with PVA began.
“I joined PVA four or five weeks before I went to the Wheelchair Games,” she says. “I didn’t understand the magnitude. I didn’t know anything.”
But after landing at LaGuardia for the New York event, she began to understand just how large – and significant – the Games are.
“It was very emotional for me to understand how large this event was and how intentionally people were making sure individuals like myself — disabled and in wheelchairs — count. They make sure you know that you can do everything in a wheelchair except walk.”
Kathreen says being in a wheelchair makes her feel overlooked – or, worse, like a liability. But at the Games, she enjoyed the friendly competition and most of all, the support she received from others. The exposure to all the different sports gives her motivation for the future.
Kathreen became a baker during the pandemic, and hopes to open a small business selling vegan baked goods. Her oldest is waiting to enter the Navy. And she is learning about all the PVA has to offer.
“It’s not easy transitioning from being a ‘normal’ person to a disabled person and finding a place in society. But being at the Games, “I felt like, man, I do matter. And being a part of a team is missing in my life. So this is what I want and I feel like only PVA can help.”