Fundraising with a wheelbarrow across Wales for their fallen friend

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24 May 2024

A fundraiser for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, on four wheels? Done. On two wheels, like next month’s D-Day Ride to Normandy? Quite routine. On one wheel?

The options for this are limited, and if not on a unicycle then it leaves little else, except a wheelbarrow. Yes, a wheelbarrow.

“Wheelbarrow Across Wales” is in memory of Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, who died in a helicopter crash in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on April 26, 2014. Oliver, from Kington, was in the Reserves, serving with the Intelligence Corps. Four other men died in the crash.

The fundraiser – monies raised will be split between SSAFA and United Through Sport – is being undertaken by five of Oliver’s university friends: Tristan Parker; Arul Umapathy; Jack Powell; Matty Lewin; and Tom Harrison.

Some were in Reading University Officer Training Corps with Oliver or knew him over a shared love of cricket, a beer, or all three. However each knew him, it is clear that Oliver is very, very well remembered by them. SSAFA, too, means something to them all for the support it gives the wider military family – as well as for their own family connections.

For example, Tristan’s grandfather, Colonel Kenneth Broom, late the Royal Pioneer Corps, was a past President of the Herefordshire branch of SSAFA.

Even the choice of a wheelbarrow – the machine has been donated by J&P Turner Garden Centre – has meaning, as the quintet’s fundraiser is an homage to Kington's Annual Wheelbarrow Race.

Tristan said: “This journey is not only a tribute to Oliver but also an opportunity to raise funds for two charities that would have resonated with him: SSAFA and United Through Sport. These organisations provide vital support to service members, veterans, and their families, as well as promoting the power of sports in bringing communities together.

As we embark on this incredible adventure, you can join us in honouring Oliver’s legacy and supporting these worthy causes. Any donation, no matter how big or small, will be gratefully received and will contribute to the ongoing efforts of SSAFA and United Through Sport.

Together, we can celebrate the life of a fallen hero, honour traditions, and make a positive impact on the lives of those in need.”

Wheelbarrow Across Wales sets off from Machynlleth, with stops en route to Oliver’s home town of Kington six days later including Dylife, Llanidloes, Abbeycwmhir, Felindre and Knighton.

The team will leave Machynlleth War Memorial (What Three Words: cabs.truckload.resides) at 10.30am on Monday, June 3 and ending as part of the Annual Kington Wheelbarrow Race on Saturday, June 8. Anyone wishing to cheer them as they depart and en route is welcome. Updates will be posted on the team’s Instagram account wheelbarrow_wales2024.

Please feel free to call our Forcesline if you need any support.

0800 260 6780

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