Athletes, veterans find inspiration in each other

The event helps fund prosthetics for wounded veterans.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - U.S. Army Staff Sargent Ted Henderson displayed a big smile when asked about his childhood football hero.

“I’m a huge Florida State guy. I’ve been a Derrick Brooks fan my whole life,” he said. “It’s a privilege for me.”

Henderson participated in the Valspar Championship Pro Celebrity Am event on the Innisbrook Copperhead Course Monday afternoon alongside Brooks and two other military veterans.

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The event paired athletes with veterans.

“I just want them to leave here knowing that we all appreciate what they’ve done,” said Brooks, an NFL Hall of Famer. “Sometimes the smallest thing in the world are the simple thank yous.”

Jonathan Maness also played in the group. He lost his leg in a 2005 accident while serving in the military. His son was born in Tampa and grew up a big Brooks fan.

Maness played 18 holes with a prosthetic on his right leg.

The group behind Brooks’ was headlined by Tampa native and World Series champion Gary Sheffield.

He wore a Wounded Warriors bracelet on his right wrist.

“You have to show support for people who keep you safe and put their lives on the line and their family suffers,” he said. “These are our real heroes.”

The prosthetics for wounded veterans were provided by the Veterans International Institute of Orthotics and Prosthetics (IIOP), which primarily serves active duty and veteran amputees with rehabilitation, education and service dog/companion dog pairing. All the money raised at Monday's event will benefit the institute.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of veterans and their families through education, research and collaborations,” said Arlene Gillis, the CEO of IIOP. “Really want to want to do is make a difference in their lives.”

The annual Valspar Championship tees off on Thursday.

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