21 June 2010

Massive thanks - Meet our sponsors

The following companies have helped us get our project off the ground. They have provided sponsorship and expertise and above all have had faith in us and what we are trying to achieve. We thank them all for their generosity of spirit.

Berkeley Group were the first sponsor to commit to us and got the ball rolling. When we went to them we had nothing on the table. They kick started this campaign and we are very very grateful for their vision, a key attribute in their approach to development schemes.

WellintonTrek (a family owned company) supplied all the bikes, the spares, backup and training. They stepped in when other much larger more powerful companies shied away. Let's face it without bikes the cycle ride would not have been possible. To Peter Brooker and his staff cycling is a passion and the good news for anyone wishing to undertake their own personal challenge, or even partake in a cycling holiday, is that road bikes are now available for hire from his Sunningdale shop.

Roi Driscoll Design provided hours and hours of free webdesign. The input from Roi was very special. His work speaks for itself. Roi immediately related to what we were trying to achieve with this campaign.

provided the track suits. They were fantastic to deal with and enthusiastic about the cause. They helped us with design and worked tirelessly to get the kit to us.

Marsh & Parsons stepped in at a crucial moment with sponsorship. Thank you to Peter Rollings (Managing Director) for taking the time to listen and offering support so readily.

Fresh Foods are providing all the fresh fruit & vegetables for the 12 day cycle ride. This will be an invaluable contribution to the success of the campaign. Remarkable support from a company based in The Isle of Man.

sponsored the second batch of wrist bands as the first 2500 flew out of the door. Managing Director Paul Redden has not only provided much needed funds but has contributed time and energy to help us launch this campaign. His personal and company contribution has been irreplaceable.

came forward with a solid contribution, enabling us to oil the wheels of our campaign. Thank you for your generosity.

Hertz have provided a people carrier for the duration of the bike ride. Just what we needed as a support vehicle. Their assistance in other areas has been invaluable and we cannot thank them enough.

Thank you to James Ward and Jimmy Cranswick at Endurance Sports Nutrition who gave us a really competitive price on the electrolytes, energy bars and recovery drinks the boys will need to keep them pedalling. Their friendly and efficient sales staff provided a really personal service and it was a pleasure to deal with them.
EnduranceSportsNutrition.co.uk is a rapidly expanding division of "The Supplement Company" based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Stingray RV is the market leader in Europe offering American RV's for sale or rental. Thank you to Simon Leith (Managing Director) for taking our call, offering valuable advice and expertise and agreeing so readily to help.

Thank you also to the following individuals:

Chris Cowdrey
for his unbridled enthusiasm for the cause. His commitment to charity is an example to us all.

Andrew Croker
for his time and expertise.

Rob Perrins (Group Managing Director of Berkeley Group) for his ability to problem solve.

More about Ben

Ben Parkinson was a 6'4" Para. His dream as a boy was to join the army or to be more precise - the Paras.!

Ben got his wish at 16 when he was accepted into Harrogate Foundation College. On the first day there were over 1000 boys - scared, tearful, apprehensive - and there was Ben, head and shoulders above the rest, massive smile upon his face, attracting friends like a magnet and collecting smaller boys like a mother hen. Nothing has ever changed!

Ben had found his niche in life. Perfectly suited to the hard physical challenges, responding to discipline and displaying strong leadership characteristics, he committed heart and soul to his regiment and his mates.

Ben was in the first British vehicle across the border in the Iraq war in 2003. He fought the Battle of Rommalia Bridge on his 19th birthday.
Still determined on a lifelong career with 7 Para RHA, he served a 7 month Winter tour in Kosovo aged 20, before volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan with G Battery Gun group in 2003.

On 12th Sept, 2 weeks before the end of his tour, Ben was the rear gunner in a WIMIK landrover when the rear axle detonated a huge anti-tank mine. Ben took the full force of the blast.

Given no chance of survival, he was flown home immediately, to die with his family. Ben had other ideas! Terribly wounded, he remained in a deep coma for several months. We, his family, remained at his bedside throughout, kept going through the dark times by the constant flow of his regimental family. Right from the start, boys came from Larkhill Camp - under threat of disciplinary action. Boys came straight off the plane from Afghanistan, in full desert kit. Some sobbed, some sat in silence and held his hand, some laughed and joked as if Ben were still amongst them and taking his part in the banter.

The bright spot of our day was seeing the tall marooned berets striding onto the ward.We learnt how Ben represented his regiment in the infamous Ration Pack Challenge, that he was a member of the ' Brown Bandits' entertainment group - how he covered himself in the luminous fluid from inside a light stick and charged into camp one dark night.

We learnt that he had won a regimental 'Blind Date' contest in Iraq, the prize being dinner with a page 3 girl. When the girl gave him a signed photo and wrote 'you were the best' - Ben responded by writing 'I've had better'. Mostly what we learnt was the love, respect and utter commitment that Ben inspired from within his regiment - The Big Unit was going to leave a massive hole in 7 Para and the boys did not intend to let go.

Slowly, slowly, Ben began to improve. Never downhearted, never giving in, totally immune to self pity, Ben has gone from strength to strength. Still determined to return to his beloved 7 Para, he works tirelessly on his physical fitness, his speech, his memory and learning to walk on prosthetic limbs - a feat never before attempted by anyone having suffered such a severe head injury.

Ask Ben today about his injuries and he will say - ' Its no problem, I'm getting better, and it could have been worse - it could have been one of my mates'

20 June 2010

The Boys - who's cycling ?

Standing:l/r Will Larwood,Morgan Roberts,Ross Preston,Harry Adolphus,James Cordy-Redden,Josh Wise.Sitting: Ben Parkinson.Lying down:l/r George Farquharson Will Dean

We are a group of sixth formers who decided that we wanted to make a difference. We are lucky, we live in a world where we can "talk to people " who may have influence. Whilst planning our campaign we have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from people from all walks of life. It has been exciting for us all to come together to show support for a special, tiny minority (our injured soliders) who have sacrificed so much for us. It is clear that whether you are a brickie or a banker, a gardener or a gold medallist, a housewife or a household name you can join us and contribute in some way.

None of us had done much cycling before now and we are all looking forward to the challenge. The cause will keep us going and the thought that Ben will be there at the end waiting for us.

We would like as many people as possible to cycle with us be it for one day, two days or just a few miles. The cycle route is well documented (see The Cycle Route on our website) and a start time and place posted for each day. If you can't cycle please turn out and support us and help us to raise awareness for Ben and others like him.

07 June 2010

Our Campaign

Back Ben Parkinson is a campaign to raise money for Ben Parkinson and create awareness of other seriously injured soldiers like him.

We are cycling from Fort George in the north of Scotland to Portsmouth, starting on 26th July and visiting as many military bases as possible on the way. (See The Cycle Route and join us for some miles).

When you meet Ben Parkinson you cannot help but be inspired. He has an indomitable spirit and a wicked sense of humour. Despite horrific injuries he is rebuilding his life. His strength of character and sheer determination are propelling him to do things that he was told he would never do again.

Ben does not want our sympathy but he does deserve our admiration and support. Ben has had lots of media coverage but there are many soldiers like him who have lost limbs, suffered loss of sight and brain damage who are in the shadows.

"Back Ben Parkinson" is not just about Ben. It is just an example of what is possible.

Our aim is to focus public attention on these brave men and women, to empower them and to promote and encourage social responsibility for them within their communites. Our vision is for other people to come forward to identify an individual who has suffered a similar fate to Ben and come up with a way to help.

This is a call to action.

What is this all about ?

The statistics are only just being made available. In the final six months of 2009 alone 46 soldiers suffered amputations followed by another 16 in the first three months of 2010. We know a great deal about Ben Parkinson and his horrific injuries but we do not know enough about those recently injured and we must make it our business to find out.

This is about recognising that there are families in the community who are already stretched and yet are receiving home a broken body and mind. They may be able to bank a cheque for services rendered but the money will run out and the house may be nowhere near prepared for a disabled person. Men are returning home so badly injured that they cannot walk, talk, see or cuddle their loved ones.

Surprisingly, these men and women do not feel sorry for themselves. They want to beat the medical predictions and regain their lives. You will be inspired by their energy and determination.

We aim to harness the energy and enthusiasm of young people so that they engage with these individuals and form a life long bond. Three schools have adopted Ben Parkinson and we are inviting others to do the same.

However, anyone of any age can help. There is not a single person who does not have something to offer. Maybe you could raise the money to fund a prosthetic limb or a wheelchair, offer free training or free advice. Maybe you could plumb in an appliance, offer to do a few hours gardening, have a chat over a cup of tea or offer support over the phone. It's up to you. You will be saying "I know you are there and I am here for you."