14th February, Catterick: “Love for a great cause can also bring love into your life,” – so says, Jilly Burr, 51, who met her partner, Phil Bartlett, as a result of her volunteering work for Help for Heroes.
Phil and Jilly’s love story began in 2018 when Phil decided to undertake a challenge, called the Garrison Gallop, to run the 268 miles from Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in the East, Chavasse VC House in Colchester, to its Recovery Centre in the North, Phoenix House in Catterick.
Phil, 61, who was a Corporal in the Royal Corp of Transport for 18 years and travelled the world with the British Army, has been a supporter and fundraiser for Help for Heroes for over 10 years. Indeed, to date, he has raised £113,000 for the charity and has big plans for more fundraising events in 2020.
With Phil’s Garrison Gallop expected to take 18 days, Help for Heroes put out a call for supporters to cheer him on his way. Jilly, who was the charity’s Volunteer County Coordinator in Lincolnshire at the time, stepped up to host Phil and his support vehicle driver as they came through the county.
Being from a military family, Jilly had been keen to give something back and was in her sixth year in her volunteer role which had seen her doing a huge variety of things - from bucket collections at Asda, to organising cheque presentations, managing the volunteer team at Debenhams’ Help for Heroes week and giving talks about the charity at schools.
She explains, “This time, my role was to welcome him, make sure he knew where he was going, take photos of him running at a couple of nice spots and meet up with him and the support team for dinner to show him how much we appreciated what he was doing.”
The meeting might not have happened at all as, three days into the run, Phil had to detour to see a doctor because he had severe pain in one of his shins. It turned out to be a suspected fracture due to the constant pressure while he was running and he was advised to stop the event. Phil says, “Thankfully I have a stubborn streak! So, I taped up my leg and decided to walk the remaining distance instead.”
Jilly says, “We didn’t meet at the most romantic of locations. In fact, friends like making a joke about the fact that I picked Phil up in a lay-by! But we had actually arranged to meet in the lay-by near RAF Cranwell, the starting point for the day. I gave him a big hug to say thank you. He said, ‘you smell nice’ and I thought, ‘what a lovely man.’ The rest, as they say, is history.”
After successfully completing his Garrison Gallop in Catterick on his 60th birthday, Phil asked Jilly to help him out with another Asda collection. It wasn’t long before they soon became an item, meeting up whenever they could, sometimes even halfway between where they both lived.
After a 12-month long-distance relationship, Jilly decided to sell her house in Lincolnshire and relocated to be nearer to Phil. Jilly now works for Crafter’s Companion Crafter’s TV at their head office in Newton Aycliffe, while Phil is an Optical Technician at Dunelm Optical.
The couple have continued to support Help for Heroes, now combining forces to become an even bigger force for good with their amazing fundraising events. These have included Phil doing ‘Garrison Gallop 2’ which was a walk the 150 miles between Help for Heroes’ Naval Service Recovery Centre at HMS Drake in Plymouth to the charity’s Recovery Centre in the South, Tedworth House, near Salisbury. But this time, with Jilly driving the support vehicle.
Phil also runs an annual Help for Heroes Charity Clay Pigeon Shoot, now in its 11th year, and the dynamic duo are also setting up The Hero Ball as their biggest fundraising event to date. This will be taking place on Saturday 4th July at the Redworth Hall Hotel, just outside of Darlington, which will include a three-course meal, live musical entertainment and a great charity auction. Information about The Hero Ball can be found at www.theheroball.uk
Jilly concludes, “Separately, Help for Heroes was an important part of both our lives, but it’s wonderful that it has brought us together too. It seems that passion for a good cause can ignite passion across the rest of your life – so we’d recommend to others to do their bit, volunteering or fundraising. You just never know where it may lead.”