This is the first in an occasional series of posts about some of those taking part. We hope you find them of interest, and inspire you to take part or donate to the ride.
John has been instrumental in setting up Hero JOGLE Relay – here he tells his military and veteran story and how it led him to be a strong supporter of Help For Heroes.
I joined the Army Catering Corps in 1990, straight from school, at the age of 16. I served for 5 and a half years, which included a six month tour of Northern Ireland in 1993.
When I left the forces, I had difficulty adjusting to civilian life and, on occasion, controlling my anger, which would flare up over relatively minor issues. In an attempt to channel some of this pent up aggression, I joined my local rugby club, Old Edwardians. The physical exercise and camaraderie of a team sport replicated the banter I had experienced during my time in the Armed Forces.
Because of my background, I had always been a supporter of H4H but it wasn’t until I heard about the Big Battlefield Bike Rides through a rugby team mate who was participating, that I started to become even more involved.
In the summer of 2016, I signed up for the BBBR taking place in Arnhem the following year. As a complete fundraising novice, I then took on what at first seemed the rather daunting task of raising the £3500 target amount. I started off quite small, with my first fundraising event taking place on a cold, wet morning in my local market, under a gazebo with some collection buckets, but I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction from the public and I enjoyed chats with several elderly veterans who wanted to share their experiences with me, which I found very humbling.
Over time, as my confidence grew, I started coming up with more creative ideas for events, the most popular ones so far being the collections I organised outside the Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham for the annual Army vs Navy rugby match and the 24 hour bikeathon which myself and a group of fellow volunteers took part in, riding a static bike in a local pub in Romford, Essex. When we were left overnight by the landlords with the full run of the pub, we remained totally focussed and determined, only drinking the coffee machine dry!
The generosity of the public never fails to amaze me and having now taken part in three BBBRs, I have always managed to successfully reach target and sometimes go beyond. I have also made some wonderful friends on this journey, fellow volunteers who give up their time to help out at events and help raise vital funds to support the fantastic work of H4H.
Photos from the start and finish of BBBR19: