Scotty’s Little Soldiers host action-packed Adventure Day for bereaved military young people

A large group of young people, all bereaved of a military parent, attended Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ Adventure Day – funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (AFCFT).

The day provided an opportunity for secondary school aged members of Scotty’s Little Soldiers to participate in fun and challenging military-themed activities whilst making friends, developing life skills and feeling supported as they journey through secondary school and transition into adulthood.

Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, held the military themed event at Condover Hall in Shropshire. The event was the first event of its kind organised by the charity and part of the Stronger Together project to tack loneliness.

34 of Scotty’s members arrived on the evening of Friday 21 July, were split into teams and watched a special video from star of Channel 4’s ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’, Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham. The former SAS Soldier told them they would have a series of top-secret missions to complete over the next 24 hours. Afterwards, on their way to the next activity, they were suddenly intercepted by the military police, who pulled up in police car with sirens blaring. The police, who were invited as part of the event, handed over a briefcase with a message containing further instructions. The young people were told they’d take on the missions the following day, so ahead of their challenge, they had the chance to get to know one another around the campfire and talk openly about their experiences of childhood bereavement.

The next morning, the Adventure Day began and Scotty Members, who were in teams alongside young people in the same year group, took on their missions themed around the RAF, Navy, Army, Special Forces and Reservists. These missions were hosted by Commando Joe’s – whose veteran-led programmes are designed to improve the educational outcomes of children and young people – and each mission was introduced by another video from Billy Billingham.

Nikki Scott, who founded Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2010, following the death of her husband, Cpl Lee Scott, said:

“It was amazing to see the difference from the beginning of the Adventure Day, when many of the young people were shy and a little nervous, to the end, when they had made friends and surprised themselves with some of the challenges they had taken on and what they had achieved. The event helped them develop key skills such as teamwork, leadership, resilience and self-evaluation. We watched them grown in confidence and develop. That’s exactly what these events are about. A huge thanks to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust for funding the event and helping to remind these bereaved military young people that they are not alone.”

Lexie Pallett, 15, has been supported by Scotty’s since 2020, following the death of her dad, Sgt Oliver Pallett, who died in 2020. As the Adventure Day came to a close, she said:

“It’s been so much fun. I was a bit nervous when I first came but I’ve really enjoyed being here and making new friends. I loved the raft building. It was the first thing we did. We had loads of fun and bonded over trying not to fall in. It’s those little moments that really made the weekend.”

For 11-year-old Ratu Lelenoa and his two older brothers, it was their first Scotty event. Their dad, LCpl Samuela Lalakato, who also has two other younger children supported by the charity, died earlier this year. Ratu said:

“This is my first Scotty event and it’s been really fun.  I’ve made friends and we all worked together. My favourite part of the day was the zip line. I’d like to come to another Scotty event.”

In addition to Scotty Members of secondary school age, two of the charity’s Springboarders (members aged 18-25) also attended as volunteers, offering their support to the younger members.

22-year-old Springboarder Bethan Coomber, has been a member of Scotty’s for over 11 years, following the death of her dad, WO2 David Coomber, when she was just 9 years old. She said:

“I wanted to volunteer at the Adventure Day to give something back to Scotty’s, as they’ve done so much for me and my brother throughout our childhood. I wanted to spend time with the Scotty Members, as I know how it feels to be their age and to be experiencing grief.

My highlight of the Adventure Day was the zip line. I personally enjoyed it, and I liked seeing the members that were nervous talking it through and helping each other. It was also really nice that sometimes, the children brought up their parent, without even realising. They’d saying things like, ‘my dad taught me this knot’, or ‘I’m going to climb the wall today to represent the height of my dad’, which was really heartwarming.”

While Scotty Members enjoyed the Adventure Day, their parents and carers had the opportunity to engage with each other, take on their own climbing challenge, have one-to-one time with Scotty’s Support Team and interact with representatives from a variety of military bereavement services, offering expert support and guidance. Kooth, RNRM Widows’ Association, RAF Widows’ Association, Army Widows/ers’ Association, Forces Pension Society, WAY Widowed and Young, Forces Employment and Climbing Out all attended.

Abigail Bull’s 11-year-old daughter, Ava, took part in the Adventure Day. Ava and her younger brother, Alex, became members of Scotty’s, after their dad, Sqn Ldr Andrew Bull, died in 2020. Abigail said:

“It’s been a really fantastic opportunity for Ava, who is transitioning to secondary school, to build confidence and challenge herself. It’s really important for her to be in an environment where loss is the norm because it gives her and the others space and the opportunity to just be themselves. As her parent, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to meet other widows and share our experiences”

Ideas for Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ Adventure Day came from Scotty’s Members Council – a group of young people who represent the charity and act as the voice of bereaved military children – while the day itself was generously funded by the AFCFT as part of their Tackling Loneliness Project, which aims to reduce the effects of social isolation on the Armed Forces Community.

Sonia Howe, Director of Policy and Communications at the AFCFT, who funded the event said, said:

“The Stronger Together project from Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a great example of how bringing people together to tackle loneliness can be so impactful. Improved confidence and self-esteem are vital tools in overcoming social isolation, and it is great to note that the parents and carers of the young people involved also had the chance to get stuck in. Building stronger social networks and friendships was a key element to the Tackling Loneliness programme and this project illustrates the difference it can make.”

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