From Cardiff to Lon­don in ten gru­elling days, the Hockey For Heroes crew are ready to hit the road

Gra­ham Ot­way at­tends the launch of the 2017 Hockey for Heroes Char­ity Tour

The Hockey Paper - - HOCKEY FOR HEROES -

AS a na­tional sports cen­tre, Bisham Abbey has over the years pro­vided train­ing and coach­ing fa­cil­i­ties for a wide va­ri­ety of top sports­men and women but an event held there over last week­end surely broke new ground.

The Berk­shire es­tate was the set­ting for the launch of the 2017 Hockey for Heroes Char­ity Tour to raise much needed funds to help pro­vide sup­port to in­jured mem­bers of the ser­vices.

And the out­line pro­gramme that has been drawn up for a 28-strong team of male hockey play­ers is so phys­i­cally de­mand­ing that it will make a gru­elling sport like marathon run­ning ap­pear as en­er­gys­ap­ping as tak­ing a dog for a walk in a park.

Over ten days, the team will walk 248 miles from Sophia Gar­dens in Cardiff to the Lee Val­ley Sta­dium at Strat­ford in east Lon­don which was the hockey venue for the 2012 Olympics.

All the way along the route they will take turns car­ry­ing a stretcher on which will be ly­ing Don Lovett whose wounds when he was serv­ing as a ma­rine left him suf­fer­ing from quadriple­gia, un­able to use any of his four limbs.

On pa­per, walk­ing for be­tween five and six hours a day should not be too tax­ing. How­ever each day they will be stop­ping at a se­lected hockey club to play three 70-minute matches and con­duct other fund rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with the tar­get of col­lect­ing more than £60,000 for Help for Heroes.

Hockey for Heroes has staged two pre­vi­ous tours since the char­ity was set up over a bot­tle of whisky in a back gar­den in Liver­pool by ex-Ser­vice­men Gary Ry­der, Carl Woods and Joely For­rester.

In 2012, they played 30 games as well. Two years later they com­bined more hockey games with the chal­lenge of the climb­ing the three peaks Ben Ne­vis, Scafell Pike, and Snow­don.

But For­rester, the CEO of Hockey for Heroes and a for­mer Para­trooper who suf­fered three years of post trau­matic stress dis­or­der af­ter serv­ing in Afghanistan, Iraq and Ire­land, says their third tour which starts in Cardiff on Fri­day, May 26 is go­ing to be even big­ger

He joked: “It’s pretty stupid when you look at it to have 30 games of hockey and walk all that way in ten days.”

But then he added on a se­ri­ous note: “We wanted to do some­thing re­ally big and get Don in­volved as well and we knew he would have to be car­ried on a stretcher.

“Our tar­get is sim­ple – we want to raise as much money and aware­ness for in­jured ser­vice­men as pos­si­ble while us­ing hockey and an en­durance event as our plat­form.

“So far Hockey for Heroes has raised around £89,000 and with this third tour we would now like to take that above £150,000.

“The Help for Heroes char­ity helped me through my post trau­matic stress be­cause they do look at overt and covert in­juries.

“Now we are go­ing to sup­port them by dish­ing out leaflets and car­ry­ing buck­ets to col­lect money while we are walk­ing along the roads.

“And when we get to the hockey grounds we are hop­ing that peo­ple from lo­cal clubs and their friends along with lo­cal schoolkids will give up sup­port.”

In his own hockey ca­reer, For­rester played for sev­eral clubs, most re­cently Marlow and now, while work­ing in the Police Force, he coaches the Ladies at Son­ning.

But as CEO of Hockey for Heroes he also spends his time ne­go­ti­at­ing with po­ten­tial spon­sors and the main back­ers of the 2017 will be the Welsh biotech­nol­ogy com­pany Celixir whose re­gen­er­a­tive medicines help a lot of ex-Ser­vice­man and could also be needed on tour by the play­ers.

They will be watched while walk­ing and play­ing by a team of medics headed by 61-year-old Rob Scott, the chair­man of the Hamp­shire-based Fleet & Ew­shot Hockey Club who is a chi­ro­prac­tor and join­ing him on the Tour’s sup­port ve­hi­cles will be a physio, a sports mas­sage spe­cial­ist and a para­medic trauma spe­cial­ist.

They have al­ready drawn up a dietary plan for the play­ers and writ­ten to the clubs play­ing against them with de­tails of the food they will need to eat af­ter matches.

“We have sent ad­vice say­ing what we would like to eat rather than the stan­dard sausages and chips post match tea. Ba­si­cally we will be look­ing for them good carbs and pro­tein. Be­cause the tour is go­ing to make a marathon look like a stroll in the park.

“Apart from in­juries that can hap­pen while play­ing the hockey games when do­ing all the walk­ing there may some lower back or leg re­lated prob­lems and there could also be prob­lems with the arms from car­ry­ing the stretcher.

“We will do what­ever we have to do be­cause the im­por­tant thing is to get them all across the fin­ish­ing line.”

Hil­ton Ho­tels have teamed up with Hockey for Heroes by of­fer­ing re­duced rate ac­com­mo­da­tion along the route and the plan is for the play­ers to get around seven hours sleep in beds at night.

But Scott doubts whether many, if any of them will pay a visit to the ho­tels bars as well. “No al­co­hol? It’s not a tour rule and the odd beer maybe drank but they know they can’t af­ford to wreck their bod­ies and de­stroy the tem­ple.”

Scott worked in the row­ing vil­lage at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics and is hop­ing that his con­tacts in the sports fit­ness in­dus­try will make them­selves avail­able for the tour so that there is plenty of help through­out the ten days.

But the tour is not just about male hockey play­ers. On the sec­ond day at Bisham Abbey, 41 women turned up to take part in a sec­tion process to cre­ate a Ladies’ team which will not walk from Cardiff to Lon­don but will be play­ing matches.

And among the peo­ple greet­ing them as they regis­tered for the day were GB’s Olympic gold medal cap­tain Kate Richard­son-Walsh and coach Danny Kerry who are both keen to give the tour all the sup­port they can.

“I just wanted to get in­volved be­cause it is a fab­u­lous cause. Peo­ple who serve our coun­try are pre­pared to give their lives for us. So I will be try­ing to help raise money to give some­thing back to them,” said Richard­son-Walsh.

And Kerry added: “Help for Heroes pro­vide a much needed sup­port for our ser­vice­men and women and with­out the work of bod­ies like this I worry how much sup­port there would be for them.”

And once the tour is un­der­way drum­ming up that sup­port will be Zoe Yates, who is player coach at the South Berks Club in Wok­ing­ham.

She al­ready says she is putting in around two hours work a night or­gan­is­ing all the tour lo­gis­tics and once it does start she will be on one of the sup­port buses as part of the man­age­ment team as ‘a gofer’ at­tend­ing to play­ers’ needs and look­ing af­ter pub­lic­ity and so­cial me­dia.

“We want to help them raise their pro­file and spread the mes­sage of the help needed by peo­ple who suf­fer in­jury in the ser­vices.

“And re­cently that has be­come more of a chal­lenge be­cause in war time it is much more doc­u­mented that men and women come home in­jured.

“But while that is not the case at the mo­ment, their treat­ment for post trau­matic stress maybe needed more than ever.”

And she be­lieves the ef­forts be­ing put in by hockey to raise funds for Help for Heroes is im­por­tant.

More de­tails of the 2017 Tour will ap­pear on the hock­ey4he­roes.co.uk web­site, which will also fea­ture the con­tact email ad­dress which peo­ple can use should they wish to spon­sor the event or pro­vide help to the par­tic­i­pants.

What it’s all about: Kate Richard­son-Walsh talks to a vol­un­teer

PIC­TURE: www.chrishob­son­pho­tos.co.uk

Lined up to help: from left, Joely For­rester, Danny Kerry, Kate Richard­son-Walsh, Sam Ward and Gary Ry­der. Joely and Gary are founder mem­bers of H4H

Ev­ery­one a walker: The team on parade

Hard graft: Get­ting fit for ac­tion

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