Help for Heroes’ northern Recovery Centre has been the first host of a new annual sporting competition between all the Charity’s Centres.
The aptly named, Phoenix Games was held over three days this week in and around Catterick.
Wounded, injured and sick Servicemen, women and veterans took part in a range of activities, from archery and swimming, to wheelchair basketball and ten pin bowling, with a Paralympian-type scoring system creating a level playing field, regardless of disability.
“We wanted to make the competition all inclusive so deliberately stayed away from the more obvious ‘elite’ sports such as athletics and, instead, chose ones that you didn’t need to have had too much previous experience in, or have reached a high level at, in order to enjoy taking part,” said Kelly Bostock, the Support Team Programme Manager at Catterick.
With this in mind, Kelly added a quiz, gym challenge, and raft building/racing to the event list.
The Phoenix Games was officially opened by Help for Heroes Defence Recovery Officer, David Richmond who, himself, was medically discharged from the Army.
“Having personally participated in a number of challenging sporting activities since my own injury, I am convinced that the benefits of sport and physical activity play an invaluable part in the recovery process,” said David.
“It was fitting that staff at Phoenix House in Catterick hosted the first Phoenix Games as they came up with the idea, put together the programme and worked hard to make it the success it was. I am confident that it was just the start of a new annual event that develops into something bigger in the future.”
Among the participants were former Paratrooper Dean Middleton from Seaham, who suffered a serious brain injury while serving in Afghanistan, and veteran Paul Nichol who, following a rugby injury, was told he would be wheelchair-bound but who can now walk with the aid of a stick.
“It’s been a really good experience,” said Paul. “The competitiveness that is instilled into you in the military is missing when you are discharged so to get that back again was absolutely brilliant.”
For Dean, the camaraderie among teammates was his highlight of the Games.
“I loved it. Being a veteran, you miss being part of something so it was great to be back doing teamwork. I love coming down to Phoenix House Recovery Centre anyway as it is like one big family.”
For Ash Coles, a member of the Tedworth team, his visit to Catterick was not his first – he was based on the Garrison as a member of 1 Rifles but a serious car crash left him with a traumatic brain injury as well as physical injuries, and ended his career as a rifleman.
“I am a gym fanatic and love running. I do it to keep fit but it also inspires me to have a purpose in life while recovering from my injuries have been working hard to get as physically fit as possible,” said the 24 year old.
“I am always competitive so I jumped at the chance to take part in the Games and enjoyed everything we did.”
The team that rose triumphant from the ashes at the end of the Games was the Phoenix Flames, one of two that entered from Catterick. A Gala dinner on the final evening saw each member presented with a gold commemorative medal. Runners up, the Tedworth Trojans, received silver medals.
The winner’s trophy will be displayed at Phoenix House, Catterick, until the 2014 Games when it will be competed for again at one of Help for Heroes other Centres at Tidworth, Colchester or Plymouth.