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Loudoun County basketball's Hoops for Heroes raises $16,000 for Wounded Warriors Project

2:58 PM, Jan. 14, 2014 EST

Story & Reporting by Diane Roberts, WUSA 9

LEESBURG, Va. (WUSA 9) -- Maggie Phillips, 18-year-old daughter of military parents, rallied support from teammates and classmates to put on the Hoops for Heroes basketball tournament last week.

"We are here for two reasons: to play great basketball and raise money for a great cause," said Phillips.

The guest of honor was U.S. Army Spc. Josh Wetzel. Wetzel lost his legs in a roadside bomb explosion while serving in Afghanistan last May. He's been recovering at Walter Reed Hospital.

Phillips, a two sport athlete met Wetzel through his wife, Paige Wetzel, who coaches volleyball in the area.

"It's just a really humbling experience that a high school girl would come up with this," said Wetzel.

For the students, this Hoops for Heroes tournament is a real life civics lesson.

"They were hurt trying to protect us, so the fact we're able to help them back at home really means a lot," said Loudoun County student Maddy Wheeler.

Students like Maddy, who otherwise might have only read bout people like Wetzel in a history book, had the chance to hear his story in person.

"I think that the picture of a veteran has changed so much because of this war and people don't think of a 27-year-old guy as a wounded veteran anymore, and that's important for them to see," said Paige Wetzel.

After sharing his experience with students, athletes and supporters, Josh Wetzel joined the crowd in singing "God Bless America," hopefully making Phillips' wish of pride and love of country a reality.

This year, students raised roughly the same amount of money as last year, more than $16,000.

 

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