A former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder has helped raise over £7,000 for NHS charities as part of a comedy duo making hilarious lockdown videos
The entertaining efforts of Holyhead pals Garry Stewart and Carl Hagan have even had a thumbs up from music star Tom Grennan.
Aircraft engineer Carl and former soldier Garry have made the videos on their mobile phones during lockdown and they’re definitely tickling the funny bones of people across the internet.
Donations have come flooding in for the pair who are raising cash for Awyr Las – Blue Sky – the NHS charity for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board which covers all of North Wales.
They also had a message of support from music star Grennan who took time out from preparing for his European tour to Zoom-call the two friends, sing them a song and give them a message of support.
Garry, a lorry driver who served with the Army in Afghanistan, says making the videos is also helping him deal with the PTSD which is a legacy of his time in the war zone.
He was with the Royal Logistics Corps and his job was to drive a giant Oshkosh tank transporter carrying 62.5-ton Challenger main battle tanks up to the front line and recovering vehicles from the soft sands of the Afghan desert.
He said: “Those trucks are made to survive anything which was why they were used to recover other vehicles and we did about 40 operations.
“The IEDs are scary and our comrades in the infantry lost 60 men in six months in 2009 on Operation Herrick 10, one of the bloodiest tours.
“I had worked as an HGV driver after leaving the army but I had a breakdown and my head was messed up. I nearly became homeless but the Army has helped me and so has doing the videos.”
The father of four, who has now retrained as a tiler, added: “Carl started it when he posted a video as Michael Jackson and I just thought he was losing it but I knew him from playing football when he used to referee so I texted him suggesting we do some more.
“I really can’t believe the response we’ve had from people and how generous they’ve been – we just really wanted to help people and to be honest it’s helped me too.
“I have been suffering from PTSD since serving in Afghanistan and it still affects me and although I still have therapy it’s now over the phone because of social distancing which makes things more difficult.
“But thanks to doing the videos I’m cheering myself up and we’re helping raise money for NHS Charities.”
Carl, an aircraft mechanic supervisor at RAF Valley where he has worked for 18 years, is also a Football Association of Wales referee who ran the London Marathon for RAF charities in 2012, and without training completed the course in four hours 51 minutes.
He was inspired by seeing Joe Wicks fitness videos on the internet and he added: “Joe Wicks did Fancy Dress Friday and it just gave me an idea so I dressed up as Batman and did a funny video.
“It seemed to get plenty of attention locally and Garry gave me a call and suggested we started doing them for charity and it’s just taken off from there and two weeks later we’ve raised over £6,500.
“I live on my own and do all my videos in the living room and because of lockdown I hadn’t even seen Garry until we met up for the picture at Newry Beach in Holyhead.
“Everyone seems to love them – we’ve even had a call from Tom Grennan who said the videos were a great tonic in these dark times. I was really taken aback.
“I am a father of two beautiful daughters, I love life and I love making people happy and before this my biggest achievement was refereeing the Women’s Welsh Cup Final between Cardiff and Swansea at the Cardiff City Stadium in 2017.”
Their videos have had over 300,000 views on Facebook with Carl shooting his own at home in his living room while Garry has partner Rosie Hargreaves behind the lens.
Kirsty Thomson, head of fundraising for Awyr Las, said: “What Carl and Garry have done has been absolutely phenomenal and they have definitely struck a chord with people across North Wales and beyond.
“They have been so generous with their efforts and all those who have viewed their videos have clearly enjoyed them and been so generous in turn.
“Covid-19 is clearly no laughing matter but we need to be able to have a laugh as well. Carl and Garry are helping us do that in these difficult times and are raising a lot of money for something closer to the hearts – their local healthcare services.
“Awyr Las brightens the lives of hospital patients and people receiving health care in the community and helps change and save lives by supporting additional equipment, facilities, special projects, education and research that goes over and above what the NHS provides.
“Garry and Carl are definitely brightening people’s lives with what they are doing. Most importantly, the money Garry and Carl are raising is helping to provide extra mental health support for patients and NHS staff affected by COVID-19 both now and in the future.”
Garry added: “We’re just amazed at how generous people have been. There are a lot of people in Holyhead with not much money but they have dug deep and the way they have supported us has been amazing.
“I think it’s keeping people sane and we’ve had quite a few messages telling us to carry on with the videos and the A55 American Diner in Holyhead is even giving us £1 for every £10 we raise.”
For more information on Awyr Las NHS Charity go to https://awyrlas.org.uk/
To watch Carl and Garry’s videos go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7XHM98ngS5QOdmmrrfqNoA?fbclid=IwAR3vKu8gOeeyg65BmD1ftqtMHdKbR6JhZSDfrwD06XA4tr2MKiz2G84j9rs
To donate go to https://www.facebook.com/donate/518204035501414/