Steve Pragnall has been a Help for Heroes volunteer since 2009. Fascinated by the military from a young age he served in the Territorial Army, including being a driver with the Royal Corps of Transport.
Encouraged to become a volunteer by his son, he’s done everything from being a county coordinator to helping to hold military vehicle shows in aid of Help for Heroes.
Steve sat down to tell us how he juggles his volunteering with a busy job as an HGV driver, and why he wants to keep doing his bit.
“My family’s first involvement with Help for Heroes was in late 2008 when my son, Nathan, was at primary school. He had a project which involved picking a charity and raising money for it. He chose Help for Heroes, which we thought was a great choice. We were impressed with what they did and the outcomes their work was getting.
“After his project had finished, Nathan asked me if he could carry on fundraising outside of school, so we ended up doing a coach wash for a friend, a tombola and selling merchandise. We managed to raise £2,000 and the cheque is still on the wall in the Tin Hut I think!
“When we came to visit the hut, a member of staff told us they were always looking for people to come and volunteer and my lad said “my Dad will do it!” That was June 2009 and I’ve volunteered ever since.
“I originally started as a county coordinator for Cheshire. I was working full-time so to make better use of the time I had I became a local coordinator. In that role I helped fundraisers in my area and we went on to hold auctions and a band concert. I also gave talks to tell people about Help for Heroes, including the Women’s Institute.
“The flexibility that comes with volunteering is one of the best things about it. I love it, it’s great fun. My mum, dad and wife (Linda, George and Audrey), as well as Nathan, are all registered volunteers. When we do it as a family, it’s like day out for us.
“We’ve met some of the guys the Charity helps, including Derek Derenalagi (who lost both his legs in Afghanistan). I asked him how he was, which seemed a stupid question because he’s got no legs, but he said ‘I’m absolutely brilliant’ then said ‘If it wasn’t for people like you I wouldn’t be here.’ His wife came over to thank me, my mum and my dad and we were all in tears. She was so humble, she couldn’t thank us enough.
“Meeting the beneficiaries makes your realise how much of a difference you’re making. They’re doing what they’re doing now because we’re doing what we’re doing.
“We visit the Tin Hut when we can to say hello and have a brew. The staff are always so welcoming and it’s a nice thing to be involved in knowing how grateful they are.
“Nathan now serves in the Navy but he still gets involved with Help for Heroes, even getting his head shaved before he joined in 2016 to raise funds. He received a Hero Award in 2015 for outstanding dedication, and he’s planning on skydiving for the Charity and God knows beyond that!
“As a volunteer the more involved you become, the better you’ll find it. I’m now hoping to become a mentor as part of Help for Heroes’ Career Recovery service and get the company I work for to sign up as a Charity of the Year.
“Volunteering is brilliant. It’s humbling and rewarding when you meet the guys and see how far they’ve come. They say their wounds are just a scratch, but it puts everything in a new perspective. They put their lives on the line for us, so why not make a bit of time for them? It’s why I’ll keep volunteering.
“Just do what you can, every bit of time is appreciated.”
To find out how you can volunteer, click here