When second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student Gunnar Fillerup and his fellow DPT classmates finished playing the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team in a doubleheader fundraising softball game on Oct. 4, 2014, they were overwhelmed with admiration about how the war heroes are able to overcome difficulties and challenges.
"They have a great outlook on life, and they seize all opportunities that are available to them," said Fillerup, who was a player-coach for the first- and second-year DPT students. "Their passion, determination, and resiliency are something that I strive to reach. It was apparent that they don’t see their amputations as an impairment, or as something that will hold them back."
DPT students, local first responders, and donors played softball games against the WWAST at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, California, helping raise more than $29,000 to benefit the team.
WWAST is composed of veterans and active-duty servicemen who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have lost a limb post-Sept. 11. They travel the country playing able-bodied teams in an effort to increase awareness and education about the Wounded Warriors, and display their ability to overcome any obstacle.
The Department of Physical Therapy Education hosted WWAST at a minor league baseball stadium where the Inland Empire 66ers play baseball. More than 550 people came out to support the cause.
WWAST took both games from the two WesternU teams. In the first game, first responders, donors and DPT Class of 2015 students lost 24 -9. In the second game, WWAST pulled out a 14-13 win over DPT Class of 2016 and 2017 students.
Six-year-old Joshua "JJ" Miller, who has both legs amputated above the knees, threw out the fist pitch. Students from the PT program met JJ in 2011 at Camp No Limits and have maintained a strong bond with him and Challenged Athletes.
Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, Chair, Department of Physical Therapy Education, College of Allied Health Professions, said this is the first collegiate PT program to ever play WWAST.
"The reception the Wounded Warriors received was tremendous," Schilling said. "These are an amazing group of men. The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team stated that they appreciated that we honored and understood their role as war heroes."