Jeff DeLeon

Keizerite Jeff DeLeon was paralyzed from the waist down in a single-car accident while serving in the U.S. Navy. He’s now an active member of the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans Association, which hosts athletic events aimed at getting paralyzed vets moving. (KEIZERTIMES/ Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Jeff DeLeon was an aviation technician in the U.S. Navy when he was involved in a single-car accident that left him without use of his legs.

Not one to sit around licking his wounds, DeLeon, a Keizer resident, found renewed purpose in athletics and as a board member of the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans Association.

“If we can get people out here doing sports or anything, it improves the quality of life so much,” DeLeon said.

DeLeon was one of several area golfers taking to the greens at Salem’s Creekside Golf Club Monday, May 2, for the Grass Masters Classic, an event sponsored by the OPVA. The OPVA advocates for rights for paralyzed vets and organizes group activities, like the golf tourney.

Participants were assisted by specialized golf carts with swiveling seats that rock forward for paralyzed golfers to make their shots. As a board member, DeLeon got a first crack at the carts and the course running up to the event.

“The nice thing was that someone from the club came over who had a paraplegic brother who hadn’t been getting out much he was going to tell his brother about the carts and see if he could get him to come out and play,” DeLeon said. “That’s the sort of moment that makes it all worth it.

There are a lot of people in the same position as me who think they can’t do these things. It will be different, but they can do it.”

OPVA is currently in talks to start up a bowling league for OPVA members and, possibly, a fencing classes.

For DeLeon himself, his heart lies in wheelchair basketball, but Oregon currently lacks a team. In the meantime he’s focused on discus and javelin in track and field events in the Paralympics.

He said people often ask him how he can do all the things he does, but DeLeon shrugs off such admirations.

“I go to the Paralympics and watch all these kids compete and they’re an inspiration for me. When you can bring somebody out and let them try something that will help them view their lives differently … that’s what gives me such a great feeling,” DeLeon said.

For more information about the OPVA and upcoming events, visit www.oregonpva.org.