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South Yorkshire blind veteran taking part in a month-long virtual walking challenge to raise money for the charity that supports him

A blind veteran from South Yorkshire will be taking part in a walking challenge over the month of February along with 24 other veterans in order to support Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

Brian Marshall, 69 and from Doncaster, has been walking every day in January in preparation for the challenge which will start on Monday 1 February. The 25 blind veterans, who are all local to the South Yorkshire area, will walk a distance of their choice every day with the total number of steps added up at the end of the month. Brian says: “It’s great to be part of this challenge. It’s keeping me active and getting me out of the house. I put on my walking boots and a warm coat and I’m averaging about 12,000 steps a day! The charity has been a brilliant support and I will do anything I can to help them. Hopefully this challenge will raise help some much-needed funds!”

Brian joined in the Army straight from school and was medically discharged after a year of service when he lost the sight in his left eye. He has since been diagnosed with glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in his right eye and was registered blind in 2001.

Fortunately, Brian found Blind Veterans UK and started to receive support from the charity in 2017. He says:

“I can only make out shapes now and I can’t see faces. I heard about the charity a long time ago, but I didn’t make enquiries because I was proud and didn’t think that I needed their support. When I lost my guide dog a few years ago, I was encouraged to get in touch with the charity and reach out for their help. I have never looked back. What they have done for me and my wife has been amazing”.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Brian regularly visited the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno. He says:

“I took part in a driving week at the centre which was fantastic. I lost my driving license when I lost my sight, so it was my first time in front of the wheel in 34 years! I’ve also been on cookery weeks and taken part in archery classes. The charity has also given me and my wife a tandem because we love to cycle”.

The charity has provided Brian and the other walkers with a pedometer so that they can count their steps every day. The 25 veterans will be spilt up into five groups and the winning team with the most steps covered will be announced at the end of the month. Mary James, Community Team Leader at Blind Veterans UK says:

“We decided to organise this community challenge to not only encourage the veterans to be active during the lockdown period but to also bring the members together virtually. It’s been lovely to hear all their feedback of how their walking is going so far and a few of them are getting very competitive!

“Hopefully we can raise as much money for the charity as we can. There are so many veterans out there that don’t know that they are eligible for our support because they have never heard of us. It would be great if this challenge could help raise awareness of the charity”.

Brian will be doing the walk alongside his wife Barbara. He says:

“My wife has been an amazing support to me, and the charity have been there for both of us.

Blindness is a horrible thing but there is life after it. You do have to adapt, and it isn’t easy but with the right support it is possible”.

To support Brian and other veterans on their walking challenge, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/com12steps

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and thus being advised by the Government to self-isolate. The National Support Service will help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.

Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said:

“Having to self-isolate, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.”

Nicky Shaw added:

“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”

You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Covid-19 at blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.

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