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Help for Heroes hosted its first community sport series event, to encourage veterans from across the country to enjoy physical activity in good company.

The pilot event was part of the Charity’s wide-ranging efforts to tackle the dangerous and widespread problems of isolation and loneliness within the Armed Forces community.

Veterans took part in archery, rowing, boccia, table tennis, swimming pool activities and wreath making. Just as importantly, new friendships were formed and old friendships rekindled.

Experts from the sports national governing bodies visited the games to lead sessions and make sure everyone could get involved and have fun.

Volunteers from the Charity gave up their time to help out and support the veterans.

Group shot of veterans at the sports event.
Veterans at the Community Sport Series Games. From left David (standing), Martin (standing), Denise, 'H' (David), and Natalie. - Credit: Help for Heroes.

This was the second time I left my house this year in any capacity. The other time was with Help for Heroes too."



The event was organised by the Charity's Sport, Activities and Fellowship team, who put on a wide range of free social, leisure and sporting activities across the UK. These help veterans and families improve their physical and mental health while tackling isolation. 

‘H’ (David), who served for 23 years in the Army before being medically discharged, said: “This is my second time leaving the house in any capacity this year. The first time was also a Help for Heroes event, in conjunction with The Calvert Trust, where I was fortunate enough to have been asked to attend an adventurous training weekend.

"This community sports event has been fantastic and it’s great to be part of what Help for Heroes is doing.”

He added: “I’ve really attempted to get into the spirit of the weekend. I’ve no doubt I’ll reflect back on this for some time.”

Briefly talking about one of the more physical events of the weekend, H went on to say: “When I was doing a rowing race, another attendee, who I’d not met before, was showing me how to row. He was giving me advice and supporting me. It was great to feel so closely supported by a fellow veteran."

Veterans enjoy a game of wheelchair basketball.
An official from British Wheelchair Basketball teaches some veterans some skills on the court. - Credit: Help for Heroes.

Martin was in the special forces. He has multiple sclerosis and damage to his spine. He said: “This weekend has changed my life. I’ve heard people say ‘you’re not alone’ a lot. But they're just words. This weekend, I realised actually they’re not just words. I no longer feel alone.

“Because I have multiple sclerosis my muscles are wasting and I need to exercise every day. It’s so easy to just lie in bed each day. Life’s tough.

“But this weekend I made loads of friends. We’re going to keep in touch and support and motivate one another to get active.

“I use sticks to get around. But I fall over regularly. My occupational therapist said I should think about using a wheelchair. Fear and embarrassment have been stopping me. Playing wheelchair basketball here with other veterans was so much fun and made me realise I’ve nothing to be fearful or embarrassed of. One of the other veterans said they have a spare wheelchair I can have.

“We all have our own physical and mental health worries. And it’s easy for them to put our life on pause. But coming here, you see that you’re not alone. Others have similar issues. By supporting one another and having fun together, it makes all the difference in the world.”

Head and shoulders image of a woman.
Natalie at the Community Sport Series Games. - Credit: Help for Heroes.

Natalie was an officer in the Army. She was medically discharged from the military, and has had a leg amputated because of the medical condition complex regional pain syndrome.

Through Help for Heroes, Natalie got into sport. She’s competed regularly and at a high standard at dressage. She was continuing with her love of sport at the community sport series games.

“It’s been fantastic and it has got me out of the house,” Natalie said.

“When I saw this, I put my name down for it straight away. I was a bit worried because I didn’t know anyone here. But I needn’t have worried. We’re all friends now.”

Veterans taking part in an indoor rowing race.
Martin, right, competes in a rowing race with other veterans cheered on by supporters. - Credit: Help for Heroes.

This weekend has changed my life. I hear people say to me 'you're not alone' but they're just words. This weekend I didn't feel alone."