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VALLEY VETS GEAR UP FOR COMPETITION.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

Odds and ends from around the Valley:

More than 500 of the country's biggest stars from yesteryear will be in Los Angeles next week. And while you might not recognize their names and faces, you'll never forget the theaters they starred in.

World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

They'll be in town for the 16th National Veterans Golden Age Games, open to U.S. military veterans, 55 or older, who are receiving care at any VA facility in the country.

L.A.'s the host city this year for the competition that will take place Saturday through Aug. 17 at two venues in West Los Angeles.

``The games bring together veterans who landed at Normandy, POWs from Korea, and Purple Heart recipients from Vietnam,'' said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi.

``These men and women are inspiring, there is no other way to say it,'' the man at the top of the VA added.

No, there isn't. That's why they deserve all our support and cheers again this week.

Over at Sepulveda VA, about a half-dozen of the 16 local vets taking part in the weeklong games were working out Wednesday, led by team captain Don Starler.

``We range from good to lousy shape, but we all have a decent shot at winning a medal,'' said the 66-year-old vet. Starler competes in the pentathlon - discus throw, shot put, basketball free throw, hitting a softball for distance off a hitting tee, and air gun shooting competition.

``The camaraderie with vets from all over the country is great,'' he said, ``and the people in the Valley should be proud because just about every year we come back with more medals than any VA facility in the country.''

Last month, our local wheelchair vets at the North Hills facility returned from the National VA Wheelchair Games with 11 golds, five silvers and three bronze medals - tops in the country.

Who knows, maybe that winning attitude has something to do with our local vets having to stay in shape all the time - so they can fight VA brass who keep trying to downsize the Sepulveda facility even more.

That and a couple of top-notch VA staff training coaches and recreational therapists named Steve Gates and Patty Jones, the men said.

In addition to the pentathlon competition, there are other events more my speed: golf, horseshoes, shuffleboard, checkers, dominoes, croquet, table tennis, bowling and nine-ball pool.

Century Plaza Hotel and Brentwood School will be the primary sites for the competition. If you want to go out and support our vets next week, you can get information on times and locations by calling the Golden Age Games hotline at (866) 424-7873.

This Saturday at 8 p.m., over at AMF Rocket Lanes in Chatsworth, there's another great event that also stars some pretty incredible people.

It's the second annual Pro-Am/Celebrity Fund-raiser to benefit the hundreds of special athletes with mental retardation who are participating on the Tri-Valley Special Olympics team.

``Belief in their own abilities is one of the most powerful benefits Special Olympics offers athletes,'' said Jan Maseda, director of Tri-Valley Special Olympics, which covers kids in the San Fernando Valley, Burbank, Glendale, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and surrounding communities.

If you want to help these special kids believe in themselves, call Maseda at (818) 342-0017 for more information on the tournament and Tri-Valley Special Olympics.

And finally, to the vandals who broke into Sunflower Montessori School in Van Nuys last weekend and stole the school's TV and videotapes, you should know this: It's a small, nonprofit school operating on a shoestring budget and can ill afford to lay out $400 or $500 for a new TV. But they'll find the money somewhere, director Iswari Camou said.

It's the tapes they want back. Those, you can't buy anywhere. There are 25 years of memories on many of those 50 tapes you took - class graduation ceremonies, school parties, field trips - all the things money can't replace.

They don't mean a thing to you, but to the people who cherish this little school, they're priceless.

It's a long shot - but show some class and return them. Or call the school at (818) 781-3662, and let them know where the tapes are.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

From left, Darion DuBois of Van Nuys, Charlie Gray of North Hollywood and Don Starler of Chatsworth will compete in the national V.A. games.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 8, 2002
Words:744
Previous Article:ROMER FAILS TO PLACATE UNION REPS LAUSD HEALTH COVERAGE STILL A CONCERN OF TEACHERS, OTHERS.
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