2016 was a big year for Chris Jones – the 45-year old became a bronze medal winning World Adaptive Surf Champion, he competed in the Florida Invictus Games, took part in Help for Heroes’ Big Battlefield Bike Ride and got to the Pilot Gig Rowing World Championships. All this success brought positive attention and, through his achievements at the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, GB Paralympic Sprinter, Sophia Warner, invited him to become a celebrity team captain for her 2017 event ‘Superhero Tri’. Chris was photographed with the other team captains, who included household names like Johnny Peacock, Dave Weir, and Adam Hills:
“The best bit about it has been that I’ve been able to line up alongside these well-known people to encourage and inspire others with disabilities, to show they can get involved in sport and that there are opportunities out there for them.
“I know very well just how beneficial sport is for your mental health, as much as it is for your physical health.”
Joining the British Armed Forces in 1993, Chris became one of the most highly qualified Air Troopers in the Army Air Corps. Tragically, a series of injuries left him with knee, hip and back problems to the point where he left the military in 1998:
“I not only had to deal with the impact of the physical injuries and the way they restricted what I was able to do, but I had to deal with the psychological difficulty of feeling like I was no good anymore. That was very hard to deal with.
“There was no transition to civilian life. I was just thrown straight in and left to get on with it on my own.”
Chris spent 16 years trying to cope alone until 2015, when he approached Help for Heroes: “I went from having nothing in the way of support at all to suddenly being told ‘we are here for life’ and that’s really quite hard to get your head around when you’ve been in the position that I was for 16 years.”
Sport has played a huge part in Chris’ recovery. The successful completion of a mountain bike course, whilst at Help for Heroes’ Tedworth House Recovery Centre in August 2017, led to him setting up a mountain biking club for children at the school where he works: “I expected half a dozen teenage boys who might be keen to go out and do dirt jumps and hurtle round trails.
“Instead, we have over 30 boys and girls ranging from eight to 15. There are six coaches, the other five having qualified through a course that I set up. We have bikes, helmets, a minibus and bike racks. It’s been amazing how quickly it’s grown, and we’ve had amazing support from our local community. It’s been a phenomenally rewarding experience.”
Now a Help for Heroes Ambassador, Chris credits the Charity in helping his ongoing recovery: “Help for Heroes got me from considering suicide to being able to achieve so much.
“Without them providing access to mental health services and giving me the means to start interacting with society again, none of this would have been possible. The enjoyment I now get from helping people is my driving force.”
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