Skills on Wheels – Tennis Expo

Bob Wieland and President Ronald Reagan

Each day, 22 veterans commit suicide, or nearly one per hour. Brady Mazzola is trying to prevent that from happening but needs help.

The Orange native and former Lamar tennis player is hosting the first event of its kind on Veterans Day – Friday, Nov. 11 – at the Beaumont Municipal Tennis Center at 6455 College beginning at 7 p.m.

The Honoring Our Heroes “Skills on Wheels” Tennis Expo will feature a cocktail reception, auction, a Lamar men’s tennis exhibition, plus wheelchair tennis singles and ending with a tennis exhibition match featuring a tennis pro pairing with a wheelchair athlete competing against another tennis pro and wheelchair athlete.

“It’s such a shame that those who defended our liberties and freedom come back and don’t have means to rehabilitate,” said Mazzola. “Adaptive sports gets veterans off the sidelines and back into the game. This helps pull them out of depression and get them out of their homes and become more active in the community.”

Bob “Mr. Inspiration” Wieland will be the guest speaker. Wieland is a Vietnam veteran who lost his legs to a mortar mine in 1969. After recovering from his injuries, Wieland enrolled in college at Cal State University then went on to work for the Green Bay Packers as the strength coach.

He received his “Mr. Inspiration” nickname from the late President Ronald Reagan when he walked across America on his hands. The journey from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. took him three years, eight months and six days.

Wieland is also a former four-time world record holding in the bench press with a lift of 507 pounds and has been honored by many including People magazine, naming him one of “Six Most Amazing Americans,” and presented the National Award for Courage by the NFL.

“Our goal is to raise funds to buy sports wheelchairs,” said Mazzola. “They are anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 a piece. Insurance companies can provide a wheelchair, but not a sports wheelchair. The more active veterans are, the more they can battle depression and PTSD. It really can save lives.”

Mazzola, now a tennis pro at Kingwood Country Club in Houston, founded the Watering Seeds Organization, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that creates sports rehabilitation and recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs. While living in Los Angles, Mazzola was inspired by a Paralympic wheelchair tennis exhibition held at UCLA.

“I host a skills-on-wheels clinic every Friday night in Houston,” said Mazzola. “It’s basketball and tennis for wounded veterans and disabled citizens. I want to set up programming in Beaumont starting with this event on Veterans Day. I want to showcase adaptive sports. This event will help showcase the Beaumont Municipal Tennis Center. It’s a great facility.”

Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple and can be purchased online at www. contagus.com/wso.

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