Mary Free Bed’s wheelchair rugby tournament returns after year off

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wheelchair quad rugby with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is back in action this week after being canceled last year due to COVID-19.

The tournament was named Thunderfest due to the loud banging of wheelchairs. It features 50 wheelchair athletes from around the country.

The entire season was canceled last season, making this the first tournament back for these athletes.

Sports coordinator Christy Vanhaver says this sport was created for those who have quadriplegia and have suffered spinal cord injuries. Vanhaver said this group of athletes is thankful just to be playing once again.

Thunderfest, a wheelchair rugby tournament hosted by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. (Oct. 3, 2021)

“We’ve had to do some COVID hoops to get here, but we’re here and they feel safe to be back. And they’re back with the comradery of their rugby family and the competitive spirit and the competitive venue they’ve been missing, so they’re excited,” Vanhaver said.

Teams, support, staff and referees were required to turn in a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the start of the tournament, regardless of vaccination status.

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