One hundred ninety Cheerios boxes were not enough, and the ones left on display behind Scott Winkler were sent to the canteen to be sold.
The Grovetown resident looked around in disbelief.
"I told you we should have ordered more," he said.
Winkler, who owns the adaptive world record for shot put, sat in his wheelchair near the entrance of Augusta's Veterans Affairs Medical Center cafeteria, signing Cheerios boxes bearing his likeness and those of others who competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Hospital workers and patients lined up with boxes, some by the cart-load. Winkler and wheelchair teammate Orlando Perez, an Augusta native, scribbled furiously with their Sharpies.
"You guys want an autograph?" Winkler asked passers-by when traffic slowed. "Come on, come on."
Winkler suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury when he fell from an ammunition truck while serving in Tikrit, Iraq. He rehabbed at the VA hospital, where he met Evans resident Jeff Snover.
Snover was cutting trees on his land in Tennessee while on leave from Iraq when one fell and crushed him, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He is now chairman of Champions Made From Adversity and recently coached a wheelchair basketball team that included Winkler and Perez to a 13th-place finish at a national tournament in Ohio.
Snover watched Winkler battle depression during their early meetings. Winkler's career as a disabled athlete began soon after with a second-place finish in a bass tournament.
"I think that really got him out of his comfort zone," Snover said. "From there, he stopped pushing away opportunities."
Winkler soon was involved with field events. He won gold in shot put and bronze in discus at the 2007 ParaPan Games and will travel to Beijing in September for the Paralympic Games.
"His confidence has grown through the roof," Snover said. "His outlook on life has changed from 'now what?' to 'now what not ?' "
Winkler drives to Birmingham, Ala., once a week to train with coach Chad James. He'll continue his regimen until it is time to leave for Beijing, where he said he hopes to bring back a shot put gold and improve his discus toss.
"I had an off day," Winkler said of his discus bronze at the ParaPan Games. "That was my first huge competition, and I was nervous. Of course, I'll probably be nervous in Beijing, too."
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