PINELLAS PARK, FL — Getting a jump on Veterans Day celebrations, the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch celebrated a milestone Tuesday when it broke ground on the ranch’s new memorial garden at Lurie Park in Pinellas Park.
It’s the next step in Mike Delancey’s vision to create a place for wounded military veterans to heal. The ranch allows veterans to socialize, participate in a variety of adaptive sports, attend support groups and workshops, host family celebrations and honor those they fought beside who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In a partnership with the city of Pinellas Park, Delancey, a 2003 graduate of Pinellas Park High School who was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet while serving with the Marines in Iraq in 2006, started the nonprofit ranch in 2016 at the city-owned Lurie Park, 5500 62nd Ave. N.
The ranch has specialized fitness equipment, wide trails for hand cycling, walking and running, a fishing pond, outdoor workout stations, an outdoor gathering space with pavilions and grills, a military-theme children’s playground, two dog parks and a large multipurpose sports court for wheelchair basketball, volleyball and other games.
“The Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch has been built to inspire veterans of all conflicts to get out and active,” Delancey said. “We offer activities for all military veterans in need of a supportive and healing environment, to give them a new sense of hope, resilience and strength as they move forward in their journey.”
Delancey said the memorial garden will be a place for veterans to hold services and sit in quiet contemplation.
Delancey said the garden will not only pay tribute to all veterans who served their country but will give special recognition to the military men and women from Pinellas Park who were killed in action.
In partnership with the Claybaker D.U.S.T.O.F.F Foundation in St. Petersburg, the ranch will create a memorial plaza with 4- by 8-inch paver bricks engraved with the names of those who served or are currently serving.
“Generations will come to appreciate each step our veterans took toward the preservation of freedom that we all cherish and enjoy today,” Delancey said. To purchase a memorial paver, click here.
Designed by BFrank Studio LLC architectural firm, the garden will be constructed by Mainstay Construction in Tampa.
Joining Tuesday’s groundbreaking was Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury and other city officials and employees.
Afterward, the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch bus headed to Bert’s Barracuda Harley-Davidson and the Orange County Choppers Road House and Museum in Pinellas Park where the Mike Alstott Family Foundation hosted the ranch’s traditional Veterans Day football game.
Alstott, a former NFL fullback who played 12 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been hosting the football game for 10 years.
“We used to just go to a park and play flag football,” Alstott said.
However, technological advances have resulted in new adaptive equipment that allows the wounded warriors to play football at a more competitive level.
” It’s an eye-opener to see the way technology has evolved, allowing these veterans to enjoy playing sports,” he said.
In addition to veterans from the Wounded Warrior Abilities Ranch, players included members of the Hillsborough County Buccaneers Wheelchair Football Team.
Ahead of NFL Kickoff 2021 in Tampa Bay, the Hillsborough County parks department introduced Tampa Bay’s first adaptive competitive football league. The team is a member of the USA Wheelchair Football League, which includes teams in Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Birmingham, Buffalo, Cleveland and New Orleans.
“The abilities they have are unbelievable,” said Alstott, accompanied by his son, Griffin, who helped him coach the game. “I get goose bumps seeing these guys play.”
Also on hand for the event was Paul Teutul Sr., star of the Discovery Channel series, “American Chopper,” and founder of the Orange County Choppers American motorcycle manufacturer and lifestyle brand company in Orange County, New York.
A longtime supporter of veterans, Teutul treated the veterans to lunch at his recently opened restaurant in Pinellas Park.
Top End Wheelchairs provided the adaptive wheelchairs for the game and members of the Pinellas Park Fire Department, Pinellas Park Police Department and city officials and employees were on hand to cheer the players on.
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