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    News — Help for Heroes

    THE WATERCOLOUR BLOOM SCARF

    THE WATERCOLOUR BLOOM SCARF

    Last year we had the pleasure of working with veteran and Band of Brother, Ben Skipper. Ben brought his talent and creative flair to a collaborative project to design a range around the theme of Armed Forces Day; a thoroughly patriotic collection to wear with pride. 

    This popular and best-selling range was a wonderful showcase for Ben and one which has resulted in being nominated as a finalist for 'Best Product Range' at the Association of Cultural Enterprises Awards. We are very proud of this nomination and thank Ben for his creativity and hard-work on this project. 

    With a fresh product in mind we approached Ben to help create a beautiful print for our new scarf, the Watercolour Bloom scarf. The design evolved over time to become a light-weight, floral scarf made to lift any outfit, with a style to carry you through the Spring-Summer. Ben has many creative hats and even photographed and styled the scarf on his friends and family at the wonderful Kelham Hall, see images below. 

     

    SHOP THE WATERCOLOUR BLOOM SCARF >

    We caught up with Ben to find out more about the inspiration behind the hand-painted print and how he felt about working on this project. 

    What was it like working on a new project for the Trading shop team?

    Firstly, it really was a great honour to be asked to work with the Team, the opportunity to produce work for such a great cause doesn't come up every day, so when I was asked I was I was totally blown away. I've always wanted to produce an item of clothing that could be worn in a variety of situations, so be given the opportunity was mana from heaven so to speak.

    Once the design had been processed and returned to me the transformation was truly breathtaking. I had been kept up to speed throughout, but when the first set of soft proofs arrived I was blown away by their beauty and how sympathetically they'd been rearranged, and when the hard proof arrived it really was something else. I was amazed at how the delicacy of the material matched that of the watercolours perfectly. That moment of holding the finished product for the first time was one of excitement and anticipation as well as appreciation of skills that had gone into changing watercolours into a breathtakingly beautiful pattern.

    The challenge to produce something original and eye-catching is the best part of any brief and once the final proof watercolours are sent off the worst part is the waiting. It's almost like a deep breath before the plunge, so when the first proofing email does arrive the relief and excitement is overwhelming.

    What was it like working on the artwork for the Watercolour Bloom scarf? How did you get started on a design? What inspired/influenced your design?

    Working on the artwork of the scarf was a great opportunity to explore my own creativity and experiment with a colour palette that didn't necessarily adhere to nature's own work, it was an opportunity to be freely creative and just see what happened. I initially started the process by looking at flowers in plain form, looking at how the petals, in particular, grew outwards and then trying to emulate their swooping movement in my designs. I quickly sketched out the outer petals and then started to lay down the initial colours, working towards the center of the flower as I went. I then literally just went with the flow as inspiration took me and stepping back when I felt it was right to do so. 

    My inspiration ranged from the wonderful commercial botanical illustrations that proliferated in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, to the photography of Karl Blossfeldt, and Robert Maplethorpe as well as Dain L. Taskers radiographs and a few stills of my own.  

    What do you like most about the design/finished product?

    Without a doubt the way in which they had been incorporated into this wonderfully flowing pattern. The main two colour palette, whilst muted, is also vibrant and warm,  the details of the flowers standing out and demanding attention whilst drawing you in. The choice of producing the pattern as a scarf is inspired as by its very nature, like a wildflower, it flows around the wearer, mirroring the intricate pattern produced by the Trading Team.

    What was it like to photograph the product you helped design?

    Again it was an honour to be asked to do the photography for the scarfs and involve both my wife and friend Leander Crampton, who are great supporters of Help for Heroes. It was exciting to sit down and draft the shoot plan thinking of the best ways to show off the scarf. Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire very kindly allowed us to use their grounds and Hall for the shoot, and the results of placing the scarf in a range of environments and contexts really helped to show it and some of the latest clothing lines off beautifully. 

    What would you say to someone thinking of buying this scarf?

    First and foremost it funds vital support for those who have sustained often catastrophic injuries in the line of duty or who have become ill during their service. It also helps heal the broken, allows families to come together and laugh once more, and strengthens communities. Your money provides not just a day out to the seaside, it provides a moment, a hug, a long-absent laugh with ice cream. It allows the lonely to experiment in a team sports experience that leads to a new passion. It pays for world-class staff who support our Veterans and their families every day throughout the UK. It pays for ground-breaking rehabilitation, companionship, and hope. It's an opportunity to support all of this and buy an article designed by a beneficiary of the services of Help for Heroes. Ultimately it's an opportunity to stand side by side with some of the bravest Veterans and families I have ever met and say; I know and I care. 

    SHOP THE WATERCOLOUR BLOOM SCARF >

    FROM HIDDEN WOUNDS TO HELPING OTHERS

    FROM HIDDEN WOUNDS TO HELPING OTHERS

    Matt Neve was a Senior Aircraftman in the Royal Air Force before being discharged in 2004. Following mental health difficulties, which led to several challenges including depression, Matt felt a lack of self-worth and purpose. 

    In 2016 Matt joined Help for Heroes' Band of Brothers fellowship and began recieving help from our Hidden Wounds service for this mental health and engaged with Sports Recovery, which introduced him to archery. A grant from Help for Heroes enabled Matt to buy his own kit and benefit from sport. In 2017 Matt was selected to compete in the Invictus Games in Toronto.

    He said, ''The focus of archery, when I am looking down the range at the target, I just switch off and all the tension builds in the draw of the arrow and then it goes with the arrow when it's released. It's an escape''. 

    Matt regularly takes part in Community Recovery activities in Wales and has taken part in positive challenges, like trekking across the Sahara desert, and has represented Help for Heroes in his home city of Swansea where he met Prince Charles at a civic event. Matt said, '' To be asked to so that was quite an honour. It was a real privilege to be asked to represent the Charity at such a prestigious event, so it was really nice to be able to go along and have a chat with him about how Help for Heroes has helped me and my family''. 

    Matt is a keen fundraiser for Help for Heroes, undertaking sponsored Motorcycle rides and supporting other veterans needing help. He was part of the Help for Heroes 'Cut the Clock' campaign, encouraging veterans to come forward for mental health support. 

    ''I got involved with the Cut the Clock campaign because, for me, it was all about trying to reach out to those that either don't feel they deserve support or they don't think they need support. And it's about reaching out to them. They may be isolating themselves at home or isolating themselves away from anyone else''.

    Matt and Zoe joined us on our Christmas photoshoot on a very warm July day! On taking part in the photoshoot Matt said, ''It's been great fun, I've really enjoyed doing it, but it's just a bit mad wearing bobble hats at the end of July! But it's been really good fun''. 

    COACH FOR SUCCESS

    COACH FOR SUCCESS

    Paul 'Jenks' Jenkins is a stalwart part of British wheelchair Rugby - initially as a player for Great Britain and then later as a coach. He is now Head Coach of the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team in Wales as well as the British Invictus team and the Help for Heroes Warrior Games team.

    He knows first-hand the benefits of getting into Wheelchair Rugby, following a devastating accident that left him a permanent wheelchair user. 

    Jenks served for six years in the Welsh Guards in the 1970's. Within a year of leaving he had a motorbike accident which broke his neck. Like the people he now helps he went along for a trial session.

    ''In my first year I was lucky enough to get selected for the Great Britain team and it's just bloomed from there''.

    Paul has proudly represented his country at Paralympics and European Championships. He has been supported by his wife Jayne.

    Now he works a lot with veterans coming through Help for Heroes. ''They're signposting people to me like there's no tomorrow! Which is great because you see them when they come first as a bit down in the dumps. The more they come the more they learn, the better they like the sport. And that's what it's all about, it's about them getting out to do something rather than sitting around depressed and fed up with life''. 

    

    We caught up with Jayne Jenkins, who is never far from Paul's side. Jayne is happy to get stuck in with helping the players at training sessions. She can't remember how many wheels she has fixed after a crash!

    Jayne wears the Navy Signature Hoody, available from the Signature collection here. 

    ''It's lovely with Paul being ex-military as well, it just gives him back being in the military family, you know, and I support him in every way that I can, to keep him busy.''

    She knows the importance of the sport to Paul: ''Job satisfaction, I think if Paul didn't do this, he would just be sat in the house doing nothing. This is his life, he eats, breathes everything wheelchair rugby.'' She loves seeing veterans coming along and trying the game with Jenks: ''It's amazing to see them going from knowing nothing to winning medals''. 

    It was brilliant having Jenks and Jayne featured on our photoshoot showing their dedication to helping veterans. They really enjoyed the day too, modelling lots of kit including the Welsh Rugby shirts! ''It's a great honour, to be asked to do that, you know we're Welsh and we're proud.''

     

    FROM RUGBY TO RECOVERY

    FROM RUGBY TO RECOVERY

    The excitement mounts this month for the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan! This year we have partnered with Lovell to bring some fabulous branded Rugby kit ready for you to show your support for your nation. But who better to model this brand new kit, than the veterans you support, who have found an important route to their recovery through Wheelchair Rugby.

    We caught up with veterans Bruce, Jim and David earlier this Summer at an Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby training session in Merthyr Tydfil where they all proudly represented their teams - England, Wales and Scotland. 

    With more than 30 years military service between them, Bruce, Jim and David have had to fight back from serious life changing injuries leaving them all seeking a new direction. They all came to Help for Heroes for support when they needed it and were guided to sport to help in their recovery.

     Above - left to right: David, Bruce and Jim in their Ospreys Rugby kit.
     
    The veterans proudly feature as our cover image for our September catalogue - take a look and shop our newest collections, including rugby here

    Meet Jim Whitworth 

    ‘’The 4 hours we train here there’s nothing else in my mind. It takes me to a different place, I am focused on the game, the playing, my training and everything else and that’s what’s good for all of us ‘’. 

    Jim Whitworth served as a Warrant Officer in 26 Regiment in the Royal Artillery, leaving the service in 2011 after being medically discharged due to spinal problems. After going through a range of support programmes Jim got in touch with Sports Recovery at Help for Heroes, where he soon got the chance to represent the UK in the Airforce Trials in Las Vegas.

    ‘’Sports Recovery introduced me back into the fold of looking after yourself, new sports…giving you that ethos back and puts you around like-minded people as well, that have all served, or have similar interests’’.

    Jim also took part in his local pathfinder course in Treforest, Wales. He said,’’ I had a fair few lightbulb moments and it’s like a grounding course and it really sort of grounds you to understand who you are a little bit more and what makes you tick…it’s been a real eye opener and a real help, it’s got my grey matter thinking again about stuff’’.

    ‘’If I can stand in here and send that message out to other Veterans who are struggling, families and people that are serving or due to leave or who are feeling a bit lost; just to reconfirm that it’s out there. There is stuff out that you can get involved in. But for me it’s a massive privilege and it’s an honour to share my story of how I’ve been helped by Help for Heroes”.

    To have been chosen to represent England and model the Help for Heroes clothing range, including his country’s rugby shirt has been a huge moment for Jim, “I am so proud to wear this shirt and it really is lovely, I think everyone should get one!’’.

    In talking about the Help for Heroes’ community he said, ‘’I know it sounds a bit cheesy but they’re your brothers, aren’t they? We all come from different backgrounds, different cap badges, a different cause, we’ve all had different journeys, we’ve all got different injuries, but the one thing we all have in common is that we have served, and we get each other’’. 

    Watch Jim's video here

    SHOP YOUR ENGLAND RUGBY KIT >

     

    Meet Bruce Falkenberg

    ‘’I feel proud knowing that I wear it and I’m flying the flag for the British army, having served I have a sense of being’’. 

    Originally from Zimbabwe, Bruce Falkenberg joined the Royal Regiment of Wales in 2000, beginning his service in Germany. After injuries and operations, he found himself being rehabilitated at Headley Court – with no real direction in life. Medically discharged, and living in Wales, it was only after attending Help for Heroes Community Recovery support hubs that Bruce saw a path ahead in the form of wheelchair rugby. ‘’I turned up to a session, found that I was actually okay at it. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, being part of a team again.  I was grant-funded a wheelchair by Help for Heroes and Blesma, which has really given me a whole different dynamic, you know. It really opened-up the sport for me’’.

    Thoroughly immersing himself in sport led Bruce to attend the UK Invictus Trials in Bath. ‘’It was a fantastic opportunity to see so many variations of sport; people from all walks of life, both serving and veterans; by the end of it everyone had a beaming smile on their face, blisters on their hands, but everyone thoroughly enjoyed it’’.

    Bruce has noticed positive changes in the last twelve months. “I think just being around people again of the like mind, I’ve grown, both mentally and physically, being able to relate to people and talk to people. I’ve always had the ability to talk to people you know, but being part of that close-knit group, it’s like family’’.

    He says attending support hubs is a fantastic thing, “Everyone’s happy to see you, everyone’s got their own problems you know, they’re going through all sorts of things but it seems like when you walk in that door everyone’s having a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, a bit of a cake, a bit of a laugh and just for a couple of hours, nothing else seems to matter”.

    Having served in a Welsh regiment, settled in Wales, and married Louise who is a proud Welsh woman, Bruce is delighted to model the nation’s new Help for Heroes rugby shirt, ‘’It’s a great honour to be able to represent Wales and the charity which has done so much for our family’’.

    Watch Bruce's video here

    SHOP YOUR WALES RUGBY KIT >

     

    Meet David Dewar

    ‘’I just wish to say to everybody who’s helped Help for Heroes, they’re doing such a fantastic job, supporting our Servicemen in the Navy, RAF and the Army. Please keep doing it, it’s very appreciated and thank you’’. 

    David Dewar served for 16 and a half years in the Army, before a spinal injury left him unable to continue his military career.

    As a keen sportsman, David was always interested in keeping fit, pushing boundaries and staying competitive. After approaching Help for Heroes for support he said, ‘’I’ve never looked back. The support they’ve given me has been fantastic and it still carries on to this day. Without Help for Heroes, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in my sports as I am now, to a good level, which I’m happy with’’.

    2018 saw David take part in the UK Invictus Trials where he took part in a range of sports, and found his favourite, Wheelchair rugby. He says a combination of sport and medication helps him manage his pain and enables him to train, even joining the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby Team, made up of injured veterans and civilians with a range of health conditions.

    ‘’I think for me, my main sport has to be wheelchair rugby. I enjoy it so much. I like coming and training with the guys. We’ve all got various illnesses or injuries, but we all get along. I go away with a good smile’’.

    After a challenging time, David is feeling positive again, thanks to sport. The Scotsman says, ‘’At the moment I feel that I’m in a better place, and I’m really happy and I’m really proud today to wear the Scottish top for Help for Heroes’’. 

    Watch David's video here

    SHOP YOUR SCOTLAND RUGBY KIT >