In February, a group of Help for Heroes beneficiaries were invited out to Whistler, Canada to try out a series of winter sports, as part of the charity’s extensive Sports Recovery programme.
One of the athletes, Simon Grayson, arrived at the Whistler Athlete village, the same accommodation used for atheletes at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Simon recalls some of the activities were "harder than others." He described sledge hockey as difficult, "...but turning was even harder, especially when things started hotting up and we were all trying to knock each other over. On our second exposure to sledge hockey we spent almost three hours solid on the ice, my body didn’t thank me the next day."
However, taking part in the activities wasn't necessarily the real challenge, explains H4H National Sports Recovery Manager, Louise Watson: "Often the personal challenges associated with the event, such as social interaction or being out in public, were much larger. The safe environment that these camps provided, where there was a common bond and understanding, is so valuable, as it gives the confidence and reassurance to help progress in their recovery."
Indeed, this very statement was reflected in the way Simon interacted with the other people on the camp. Simon's reflection on looking at the people he was with and remarking a noticable difference in people's stature: "We had all grown in a metaphorical sense, people who had struggled to make eye contact on day one were now actively engaging with one another. From a personal point of view I felt stronger in myself than I could remember. I felt happy, relaxed and proud of who I am.
"Since landing back home - and on reflection - I have had a truly amazing time, I’ve made some fantastic friends and have so many fond memories for what has been the trip of a lifetime. To everybody who funded the trip, facilitated it and took part in it, I thank you."
The Soldier On programme was founded in 2007 as a joint initiative between the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), who help organise this winter programme in Whistler.