The amount of public support was overwhelming, the streets were lined with well-wishers. It felt weird but good. Now it’s expected, but in those early days it was a big shock.
Cyclist Jon-Allan Butterworth, 31, represented Great Britain at last two Paralympics – winning an incredible three silver medals in 2012 and gold in 2016. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to cycling. But only a decade ago Jon-Allan didn’t even own a bike and hadn’t ridden since he was a child.
After leaving secondary school Jon-Allan joined the RAF in 2002. He served in Afghanistan in 2005 and Iraq in 2007 as a Weapons Technician. On 4 August 2007, he was involved in a rocket attack on Basra Air Station, Iraq. He was operated on by doctors in a field hospital, where they carried out an above-the-elbow amputation of his left arm.
While recovering at Headley Court in Surrey, Jon-Allan was asked if he’d like to join a bike ride to raise money to build a pool. He agreed and in 2008 cycled on the first the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, a 350-mile challenge around the battlefields of northern France, to raise funds to benefit other injured Servicemen and women. This sparked his interest in cycling.
Jon-Allan was one of the first members of the Band of Brothers and, alongside four others, laid a wreath at the cenotaph on the last day of this ride. “The amount of public support was overwhelming, the streets were lined with well-wishers. It felt weird but good. Now it’s expected, but in the early days it was a big shock.”
In August 2008, with support from Help for Heroes, Jon-Allan attended a Paralympic sports camp in San Diego. Already spotted at a Paralympic talent ID day in the UK, the British Cycling team decided to put him through his paces in the Velodrome and he was accepted onto the British Para-cycling Programme in January 2009.
Following this Jon-Allan decided that it was time he left the RAF, and focused his efforts on becoming an elite paracyclist.
Alongside his cycling career Jon-Allan starred in Channel 4's 2015 series of The Jump, where he finished sixth and became the first above-elbow amputee to do a skeleton run. He also took part in a celebrity driving challenge at the prestigious ‘Race of Champions’ 2015 event that was held in London’s Olympic stadium.
“I’ve received support from Help for Heroes throughout my whole cycling career. Without the charity being there for me, it would have been unlikely that I would have done as well to date. I might not be here today, without that support – simple as that.
“The original Band of Brothers members were trailblazers and I like to think that now the recovery journey is easier for those who have followed us. That is all down to the support from the generous public. To the loyal supporters I want to say thank you. It’s easy to get people to donate when wars are at the forefront of the news, but those whose lives have been changed forever will need help for decades. I don’t need much support now but it’s a comfort to know it is there if I ever did.”Donate to be part of the Force for Good