I spent last weekend with the Business Challenge, Supporting Wounded Veterans. With the slopes deserted after Davos’ World Economic Forum and our skis sharpened, we had the playground to ourselves. The event was Skiing with Heroes. Some of London’s leading asset managers joined forces to raise money for veterans who have been severely injured and it was more than inspiring to see them rise to the challenge and learn a new sport that enables them to enjoy life, have independence and gain confidence. On Day One the first challenge involved a marathon, covering as many kilometres between 11am and 4.30pm, without going over the same path. Our team did not stop and led by the indomitable Randolph Churchill of Rathbones and we covered 52.5km on skis. We were placed 9th out of 25 teams, first place went to a team of disabled veterans who covered 56.8km!
That evening at dinner the veterans spoke to us about the life changing injuries they have suffered. Skiing with Heroes gives veterans a one week rehabilitation programme on the slopes with support from medics, physiotherapists and instructors. There is no doubt that this experience and comradeship gives these young men and women the drive to re-build their lives. The charity also provides each veteran with a mentor to guide them, assist with all manner of requirements and support them through difficulties and attainments. Assisting 25 veterans a year, the work does not stop until they have helped each veteran find employment. The comradeship gained on the slopes helps build bonds to give these heroes the chance to succeed in careers outside the armed services and connects them with business people who can help
On Day Two we had a giant slalom which was fun and certainly fast! My team mate Melanie Wotherspoon from Rathbones was highly commended, as she stopped to help pick up a fallen veteran in front of her. Unfortunately, her second run was slower! We all made it down the course and I am proud to admit we were each beaten by a serviceman who was paralysed from the waist down – on what was, as far as I was concerned, a torpedo powdered toboggan! In fact, on a one minute course, he was only 4 seconds slower than a ski instructor racing!
That afternoon we skied with one of the veterans, spending our time with Richard. Tragically, his armoured vehicle fell prey to a bomb in Afghanistan, was sent 30 feet into the air and Richard landed on his head. Fortunately he was rescued, under fire, by an American helicopter and two days later was at Selly Oaks Hospital. Richard suffered terrible injuries, he lost both legs below the knee but unperturbed he snowboarded like a demon and no one else was aware of his disability! We could see that the thrill of skiing was a great distraction from the immense challenge he faces in getting his life back together. Whilst not in a position to gain full time employment without a great deal of support and a caring employer, he is determined to get there aided by Supporting Veterans.
They never complain and just want to be given an opportunity, to have been part of this trip and able to give back to these men and women who have given so much, was an immense privilege. If you want to get involved next year do contact me for more information or check out the website…