Serving soldier Jo Hursey comes face-to-face with a remarkable fundraiser from Milton Keynes known as “The Fridge Hiker” in a video released this week to celebrate the extraordinary bond between Help for Heroes and its supporters.
The video is the second in a series which began with a heartwarming video of five-year-old fundraiser Tempy Pattinson and Iraq hero Simon Brown, which made national headlines and attracted more than 50m views.
This film is a very different story to Tempy and Si’s – but it further underlines the lengths supporters will go to for veterans and their families, and how much beneficiaries appreciate that support.
In the video, Jo, 41, tells Matthew Bamber, 42, that people like him change lives. Jo was left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following near-death experiences while serving in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. Her PTSD started after she found herself trapped in a Saxon personnel carrier that had been petrol-bombed in Northern Ireland in 1996.
Matthew raised £7,500 for Help for Heroes by trekking 50 miles non-stop for 24 hours over heavy terrain in the Lake District with a fridge strapped to his back. In the emotionally-charged footage, he tells Jo he wanted to give something back to people like Jo.
Jo, who is still serving in the army and lives in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, tells Matthew: “You’ve changed my life completely. The money that you guys raise really helps individuals like me and every day it changes for the better. I can’t thank you enough.”
Matthew, a sales manager from Milton Keynes, explains the thinking behind his challenge: “It came from looking at our military’s history and the weights on the packs that they carry. During the Falklands campaign the troops were carrying around 30 to 35kg in their packs through that sort of terrain.
“If you carry a rucksack people can’t quite see the weight of the rucksack, so if you strap a fridge on your back, people all of a sudden get it.”
At the end of the film, Matthew jokes that Jo has talked herself in to coming on the next fridge hike.
The film is part of the Facing it Together campaign, which aims to show audiences the tangible differences that Help for Heroes supporters make to the lives of Veterans and their families.
Mark Elliott, who helped Bryn and Emma Parry set up the charity in 2007 and is current Advocacy Ambassador for Help for Heroes, said: “This film demonstrates the extraordinary and very different journeys Jo and Matthew have both gone to achieve their goals.
“Jo is a remarkable woman who serves her country and has shown incredible inner strength to recover from some very traumatic experiences. Matthew is just an ordinary guy who has tested his body to the limit and shown grit and determination to help people like Jo.
“It is so important that people from completely different backgrounds can connect through a common cause, and that is exactly what we see here.
“We started Help for Heroes to raise money for Heroes and make the great British Public aware of our wounded, sick and Injured Heroes, but what has struck me above all is the passionate support we receive from fundraisers and supporters, tens of thousands of them. Help for Heroes continues its vital work and is entirely reliant on them.
“We are humbled and truly grateful for all the support and donations received, which changes the lives of our Heroes for the better - and no-one can ask for more than that.”