On the hottest day of the year, thus far, a team of Help for Heroes’ staff, supporters, and veterans – including one who is a permanent wheelchair-user following a serious brain injury – scaled the highest peak in South Wales: Pen Y Fan.
The climbers were wearing a specially produced T-shirt designed by six-year-old Sayami, from Mount Street Infants, in Brecon, who won a competition to create a unique souvenir of the occasion. And she was presented with her own souvenir T-shirt at school, the day after the ascent, by the Charity’s mascot, Hero Bear, and Project Manager (Veteran’s Clinical Services) Jennie Rumble.
Last year, the veterans represented Wales in the Charity’s national virtual spring games. They had such a great time together, that they’ve stayed in touch and decided they’d like to carry out a further challenge this year.
The team included a ‘ringer’, West Sussex-based, former Royal Marine James Cobby, 30, a permanent wheelchair-user who has been defying doctors’ prognoses ever since an accident that resulted in a serious brain injury. James stepped in to fill the gap left by a last-minute withdrawal and has been regarded as an honorary Welshman ever since.
And, supported by his care team and his Welsh ‘mates’, James made it up Pen Y Fan with the benefit of an all-terrain wheelchair.
One of the organisers, Help for Heroes’ Sport, Activity & Fellowship Lead, Nick Vanderpump, explained: “It was certainly very hot. A lot of sweat went into it, and we caught the sun a bit. But it was still good fun. It took us about six hours to get up and down – so we were pretty much bang on in terms of planning.
“James’ chair – which is a fantastic piece of kit – weighed around 200kg with him in it and we thought controlling his descent might be a little bit tricky, especially on the steeper sections, but, with power in the battery and four people sort of anchored on to it using rope slings, we were able to manage the descent well.
“James certainly seemed to enjoy it, particularly having his picture taken, and he engaged throughout the whole day. As a team we finished the challenge with a celebratory meal, which was fantastic because the team have become firm friends.
“Everyone who has been involved in the challenge has got so much out of it; we’re already looking at challenges for next year.”
Three veterans made the successful ascent: Cobby, from Shoreham-by-Sea; Liam Mountain, from Bridgend; and Donna Davies, who lives in Hengoed. Fellow veterans Matt Neve, from Swansea, and Jason Tamplin, from Newport, had planned to take part, but were prevented from making the ascent through injury – although they were on hand to offer their support when the team departed and arrived back at the bottom.
Help for Heroes staff from across Wales also joined the team, while several of the Charity’s teams in other regions showed their support by walking or running the equivalent distance on their own ‘patch’.
The souvenir T-shirt is now available to purchase from the Charity’s online shop, priced £25 for adults and £18for children.