A truck driving instructor has been inspired to take on a massive charity challenge by an ex-army workmate who survived being blown up in Afghanistan.
Kevin Dandy, 49, who works for McCarthy Distribution in Wrexham, is running and force marching a 5k park run every Saturday during November in aid of two ex-service charities – with 25 kilos strapped to his back.
He was motivated to raise money for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and the Pilgrim Bandits, who provide support for wounded ex-soldiers, after hearing about the experiences of a new colleague, Steve Critchlow, during a six-month tour in Helmand province.
Steve, 36, was lucky to escape with his life in a fierce battle with the Taliban in 2011.
His Mercian Regiment unit was on patrol when it came under attack from the Afghan guerrillas who were armed with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades).
Steve was returning fire with his machine when he was caught by the blast of the RPG.
Incredibly, he was unhurt other than losing the hearing in his left ear.
Devastatingly for Steve though it meant he had to leave the camaraderie of the army life he loved.
He said: “I was hoping to stay in the forces because I wanted to be a 22-year man. That’s all I knew after I left school but I was given a medical discharge. I didn’t have any choice in the matter. It was heart-breaking.
“I’d only known the army since I was 18 so getting back into civilian life was really difficult. It was a massive shock.
“I had a lot of good friends in the army so I was cut off from my mates. Civilian life was more challenging than being in a war zone like Afghanistan.
“I probably rushed into a job I didn’t want to do and it’s only now that I’m doing something that I should have done years ago.
“I’ve always had my Class 1 licence which I got from the army but I wasn’t using it until I joined McCarthy.
“I’ve trained with Kev for a number of weeks and I’m out on my own. It’s great here.
“The work done by the British Legion is outstanding and the Poppy Appeal is hugely important to enable them to provide the support needed by so many ex-service people.
“I’m really impressed with Kevin for doing this challenge. It’s brilliant. He’s ex-forces himself so he gets it. It’s a great cause.
“We’re going to need it more in future because of things like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
“It’s only two days ago that one of the lads in my old battalion committed suicide and he had PTSD.”
Kevin, an ex-triathlete, got to know Steve well during the time he was being trained to join the team of drivers at McCarthy Distribution, based at their headquarters on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
A former reserves fitness instructor with the Royal Signals, Kevin was deeply touched when he heard about Steve’s experiences in Afghanistan.
Kevin said: “I’ve always been fit but through lockdown I let myself go a bit so when I got talking to Steve, I heard what he’s been through I thought I’d get fit again.
“I joined a Facebook group called Gone Tabbing (Tactical Advance to Battle) which is open to current service personnel, ex-forces people and civilians. It’s about doing a loaded run, so you carry everything you need to go to battle.
“You pay £50 and you when I complete all five park runs the money goes to a charity called Pilgrim Bandits which supports wounded ex-soldiers.
“I’ve also set up a Just Giving page to raise money for the British Legion which is also close to my heart because of the way they look after ex-service men and women.
“When Steve spoke about what happened to him it was quite moving and it inspired me to do something to raise money for the Legion.
“I started by going up Moel Famau with a rucksack as quickly as I could and I then did a trial park run before November in Ellesmere Port.
“I completed the second run last Saturday in Delamere Forest with a bergen weighing 25 kilos. This coming Saturday I’ll be doing a Wrexham park run and two other McCarthy drivers have shown interest in running with me.
“After the end of November, I’m going to carry on with the Go Tabbing to continue raising money for the Pilgrim Bandits.
“It came about because Steve opened up so candidly about his experience in Afghanistan and how lucky he was.
“He was basically blown up by an RPG which exploded nearby so it was a lucky escape really.
“One of the other lads in his regiment had a round go into his helmet, nicked his head and came out the other side. Two very lucky guys.
“It’s good the way that the company has invested in new drivers and Critch has fitted in very well.”
Managing director Mike McCarthy said: “We are blessed with a brilliant group of people here at McCarthy Distribution.
“We were pleased to be able to welcome Steve as great addition to the team and we are proud of Kevin’s superhuman effort to raise money for two such worthwhile charities.
“They are both real life heroes, “ added Mike.
Anybody who would like to support Kevin’s fundraising effort can do so via: