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High Hoops for Invictus Games Wheelchair Basketball Contenders!

Wounded service personnel hoping to make the Wheelchair Basketball team for the upcoming Invictus Games, championed by Prince Harry, were this weekend put through their paces by the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme at the final training session ahead of trials and team selection in the coming weeks.

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Sixteen serving personnel and veterans faced a gruelling two days of drills, fitness training and match practice in preparation for the final trials in Nottingham next weekend. Selection at the trials will be based on the talent and commitment shown by the potential competitors, so this weekend was an opportunity to exhibit individual progress and a passion for being part of the team!

Alastair Pingham, 37 from Llangollen, North Wales, who aspires to take part in Wheelchair Basketball at the Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, will be among 400 competitors from 14 nations taking part in the Invictus Games if he is selected. The 100-strong team British team will be selected in August by Help for Heroes and the Ministry of Defence and announced on Wednesday 13 August in London.

Alastair PinghamAlastair, served as a Marine Engineer in the Navy but was injured whilst playing hockey for them in 1998, pulling bi-lateral ligaments in both ankles. Alastair then spent nine weeks having his ankles restructured in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. However, this consisted of drilling holes in his ankles which has since caused arthritis in both legs as the cartilage has worn away and the bones rub together, reducing his height by 6cm since 2000.

Alastair had been playing wheelchair basketball with a number of local clubs when he emailed the Help for Heroes Sports Recovery team to enquire about Invictus Games tickets. “Everything spiraled from there! They asked if I was ex-forces which I am, so suggested I try out for the team and since then I am in the gym twice a week in addition to playing at local clubs and have lost a stone so far!”. Alastair recently joined other Invictus hopefuls at a week-long training camp in Texas where he played his first professional match against the San Antonio Spurs.

Alastair is in the process of re-training as a physics teacher in Wales, and says, “I’ve gone from being medically discharged and feeling worthless to being part of something that means something after 14 years of twiddling my thumbs at home!”

Martin Colclough, Help for Heroes British Armed Forces team manager said, “Help for Heroes has been supporting individuals in sport since 2008, and we are delighted to be training and helping to select the 100 strong British Armed Forces team, which will be a team to be reckoned with! The announcement of the final Invictus Games teams on Wednesday 13th August will be an exciting day”.

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Invictus is Latin for unconquered, a word that embodies the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick Servicemen, women and veterans, what they can achieve, post-injury.  The Invictus Games, presented by Jaguar Land Rover, are a unique chance for the public to celebrate this ‘invictus spirit’ through sporting achievement, at venues made famous by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The event runs from 10-14 September.  Tickets cost £12.85 and are on sale at www.invictusgames.org

The Invictus Games are being organised with the support and backing of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and the Ministry of Defence.  They will feature nine adaptive sports at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Lee Valley Athletics Centre.  Teams have been invited from 14 nations that have served alongside each other.

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Cycling Across America - Update 2

Update on Alex Halliday, William Duffy and James Howard who are currently Cycling Across America!

Alex _Halliday _5Since the last blog we have moved through Kansas and into Colorado, making our way into the Rockies and preparing ourselves for 50 mile climbs taking us to heights of 14,000ft at some points. Although this sounds quite a battle, we have been assured by cyclists going the other way that it isn't as bad as it looks...let's hope they speak the truth as it sounds pretty unpleasant to us! 

Kansas, true to form was extremely flat and when the wind blows you know about it. Fighting headwinds became exhausting and tedious, knowing you could go 5mph faster with much less energy expended. On only two occasions through Kansas did we have a tailwind. On one of the days we managed 133 miles and on the other 115; clawing back the miles we lost waiting out storms!

Although the Romans never made it to America it was as if they had built the roads going through Kansas: straight as an arrow. One day we didn't make a turn for 78 miles. As mentioned previously we were cycling at night, avoiding the winds and the heat of the day. Although this made life much more comfortable, we were flirting with death every night as lorries burned down these narrow roads with barely any consideration for us hugging the sides. Saying this during the hours of 2am-5am we barely saw any cars. To give you an idea of how straight these roads were, sometimes we would see headlights coming towards us, yet it would be a good 5 minutes till the car actually reached us. The same can be said for seeing towns in the distance. They seem so close at night, illuminating the sky ahead of us, however resentfully we quickly learnt that we could still have another 10 miles till we reached our destination. So close yet so far could accurately describe it!

In previous blogs we have complained about the heat we have experienced, however the last week has made us miss it. The weather has been awful; rain, wind and storms! Cycling through a storm at 6am in the morning after 90 odd miles strikes a bit of fear in your heart as you are in open land on a metal bike!! We did strike a bit of luck the other day, about to set off when some cyclists arrived saying a massive storm was heading our way. Rumours of half inch hail stones led to us taking refuge in a motel. Not only did this stop us cycling into miserable weather but these cyclists sold us some tyres and inner tubes which we were seriously in need of. It has also got rather cold at night, on one occasion this led to us having to wear bin bags under our gear as well as stuffing ourselves full of kitchen towel; Will saw this in a film and believe me it is a working alternative if you have no other option! Now we are in the Rockies we have all invested in some colder weather gear. 

The Rockies, although back into long mountain climbs, are without doubt the most beautiful part of the trip so far. Everywhere you look these enormous mountains are staring you in the face, a breath of fresh air after the flats of Kansas. The towns are much more prepared for tourists with many more motels and B&Bs; this not only means a comfy bed at night but more importantly the luxury of a warm shower. It is also exciting to be in more populated places again after spending the last week staying in towns which were struggling to attract more than 50 residents! In fact the pendulum seems to have swung the other way... and perhaps too far! Our stop was a town called Solida (in the Rockies) and as we arrived we saw many a motel and B&B. However, 32 phone calls later we discovered every motel, hotel, inn; every source of accommodation was fully booked. We are not exaggerating when we say we called every place to stay in the yellow pages. Fortunately some nice man came to our rescue and put us up...the kindness we have experienced ceases to amaze us. 

Cycling for the amount of time which we are, some of you may wonder how we spend 9-10 hours on the bike every day without getting bored...the honest answer is we do get bored at times, wishing the miles would go quicker. The roads are often busy meaning it's hard to talk to each other and there is only a certain number of times you can listen to the same playlist without considering lobbing your iPod off the highest peak. Of course we are enjoying ourselves massively every day; it is human nature to get a little bored after such a period of time doing the same thing continuously. 

So far it has been an incredible journey and we are gaining an experience of a life time, but it is also important to remember the reason we are here. So if you haven't done already, www.bmycharity.com/transamericacycle is the website you want to be visiting!! 

Thank you all for your support so far, it helps massively during the bleak times.

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The Marsh & McLennan Companies case study

In the summer of 2011 Help for Heroes were thrilled to be nominated, through a staff vote, as the Marsh & McLennan Companies’ Charity of the Year. Breaking all expectations the partnership raised over £420,000, exceeding the original target of £150,000.

The 18 month partnership kicked off with a number of launch events across the company’s UK offices. Special guest speakers Antony Harris and Simon Brown, from the Band of Brothers, shared their personal stories to inspire employees to get involved and do their bit. From that moment on the fundraising started pouring in. 

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Employees across the country really got behind the partnership, showing their support in creative and innovative ways:

There was an office auction offering up the Chief Executive as a chef for the night and VIP holiday getaways amongst other temptations. Teams across offices hosted the H4H Backing Britain Quiz in the office or down the local pub and Heads and Tails was played at the Christmas Party. Hero the Bear was regularly taken on bucket collections at train stations, football events and carol singing. The graduate team collected clothing and bric-a-brac to sell at Leather Lane Market and pitched departments against one another in the office game, Coin Wars.  

Sporting events were a hit. One team battled driving rain in the Dragon Boat Race, another joined the H4H Hadrian’s Wall walk and a group cycled from North Runction to Ongar. A keen diver completed and won a difficult underwater challenge, others ran in the London City Race and a team entered the evil Tough Guy Challenge. 500 employees competed in an orienteering weekend at Center Parcs raising funds for H4H in the process. One keen fundraiser even brokered the use of Carrow Road Norwich Football Ground to host a charity football match.

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Cake baking, selling and eating became a regular theme throughout the partnership. The usual office bake sales were overshadowed by the participation in the H4H Colossal Cake Sale. The London office hosting the largest cake sale H4H has ever witnessed.

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Wanting to do something exceptional, MMC and H4H worked together to send a team of employees to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. A team of 19 were joined by Band of Brothers, Ben Deakin and Stuart Evison, summiting the mountain in October 2012 and raising a staggering £110,000 in the process! Not only did this raise much needed funds for our heroes but it also galvanized regional offices to work together across different sites and operating companies.

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Through their legacy programme, MMC continue to partner with Help for Heroes on the Pathfinder Programme, a personalised and holistic three part programme that supports the transition from military to civilian life. Employees are offered the opportunity to become mentors  and through Pro Bono support, research and develop the financial literacy education workshops to support Pathfinders.

“Everyone at Help for Heroes is thankful for Marsh & McLennan’s fantastic fundraising over the last year. You have made a significant difference to the lives of those who have suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses in the service of our country.

The dedication that has been shown to fundraising has been exceptional; from the Oliver Wyman Auction which raised over £20,000, to the Young Professionals Ball which raised over £72,000, it has been one of our most successful partnerships to date. Never before have 100% of trekkers reached the summit on a Help for Heroes Kilimanjaro trek, showing real determination to complete a huge challenge. Cakes have been baked up and down the country and you held the largest Colossal Cake Sale in London, a fantastic co-ordinated way for everyone at Marsh & McLennan to “do their bit!

Christina Dove Wales

The amount raised has far exceeded our expectations and means that we can provide direct, practical support for those living with the consequence of their injury, for life. Thank you for your support and hard-work.”

Bryn Parry, Co-Founder and CEO of Help for Heroes.

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Nick Hancock completes Rockall Solo 2014

Rockall record-breaker Nick Hancock returned to the Western Isles on Sunday 20 July after 45 days on the rocky outcrop and was immediately hailed a hero - by his son Freddie.

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Freddie, aged two, was waiting at the pier at Leverburgh in the south of the Isle of Harris with his mum Pamela when his adventurer dad arrived on a cruise boat after his stay which has put him in the record books and raised thousands for forces charity Help For Heroes.

Initially, a bit put out that he had to wait so long to spot his dad, the wee boy was ecstatic to see him at last as the boat neared. As Nick stepped ashore, Freddie ran to him to welcome him back.

An emotional Nick said: "You have grown since I left. You're speaking so much better and I love you."

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Freddie seemed unimpressed by his dad's new thicker beard and demanded to know what he saw on the rock.

Mum Pamela also had an emotional reunion with Nick and said: "Although I did not try and stop Nick having this adventure we have really missed him. It is wonderful to have him back. Freddie is really excited."

Luckily, conditions were calm on Saturday morning when the cruise boat Orca III arrived at Rockall to pick up Nick. The operation to get him, his Rockpod and his many items of gear went smoothly.

Nick said: "I survived a horrendous storm on July 1 and I lost several barrels of supplies. It would have been very difficult if not impossible to continue to 60 days as I originally hoped."

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Several of the crew from the Kilda Cruises boat as well as STV cameraman Michael Skelly went onto the rock as did the boat skipper, Captain Angus Smith of Stornoway.

A veteran of yachting and cruising, Capt Smith said: "That was my sixth visit to Rockall and I finally got on. It was very special."

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Raise a glass of cheer for our heroes!

ShirazH4H has joined forces with leading UK drinks distributor PLB Group which has introduced the brand Wine for Heroes. The Help for Heroes Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc from the Western Cape, produced by renowned winery Spier, one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa, retail at £7.99. £1 from the sale price of each bottle will go to the H4H.

PLB Chairman Simon Fredericks said ‘We are incredibly proud to work with such a worthwhile charity and delighted to play a role in assisting Help for Heroes with their inspiring and motivating work to help today’s wounded Servicemen and women. Wine drinkers can really make a difference through the purchase of these wines – every penny raised will really help to enhance the quality of life for these Servicemen and their families.’

The wine quality would normally retail for £10 – £12 and therefore offers H4H supporters a really amazing deal.

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The wine is available from the following outlets:


• Rude Wines: 12 bottles www.rudewines.co.uk/search/heroes
• Buy Great Wine is (mixed) cases of 6. http://www.buygreatwine.co.uk
• Dike & Son in Dorset
• Wicked Soup in Dundee
• Penicuik Wines in Penicuik (Scotland)
• Tesco Online by the case http://www.tesco.com/wine/

 

You can get all the latest news about Wine for Heroes on Twitter.