Help for Heroes, the charity that helps those whose life is affected as a result of serving in the Armed Forces, had a team taking part in the Soap Box Race on 7th July at Alexander Palace – coming in 39th place out of 64. However, participation was about more than just fun for one of the team who is also an Army Veteran that has benefited from the charity’s support.
Mike Nunn, an IT Service Desk Analyst at Help for Heroes who served in the Royal Signals for eight years before being medically discharged, found that being part of the team building the Help for Heroes ‘Bear With Us’ Soap Box Cart (named after the charity’s mascot, Hero Bear) has given him the kind of friendship and fun that he had been missing since leaving the Army.
Mike is also being helped by Help for Heroes with medical support for his injuries, mental health and pain management.
“Being part of the Help for Heroes Soap Box team has got me out of my room in the evening when normally I would lock myself away. Being able to laugh and joke with the guys while we’re working on the Soap Box Cart has given me back the sense of camaraderie I really miss from being in the Army and it’s also a mindful activity that enables me to enjoy what I’m doing in the moment, rather than worrying.”
The team of four from Help for Heroes are all from the charity’s IT team and they built a Help for Heroes branded tank as their cart. Their aim was to help raise awareness of the charity while also raising money via their JustGiving page.
Mike has been an adrenalin junky for years, previously taking part in drift racing and also clocking up 34mph in a Soap Box race during his time in the Armed Forces. A self-proclaimed ‘petrol head’, he tried out for the Army’s now-defunct motorcycle display team, the White Helmets, and seriously injured his arm in an accident which led to his medical discharge. While he wasn’t able to drive the Soap Box Cart he was very excited to be able to push the cart at the beginning of the race – with all four team members wearing Hero Bear costume on the day.
Toby McIntyre, Head of IT at Help for Heroes and also team captain of the Red Bull ‘Help for Heroes, Bear with Us’ team, was one of the masterminds behind the design and build of the cart, more because of his ownership of a double garage rather than his cart-making skills! Between them, the team has a wealth of problem-solving skills and a can-do attitude rather than practical ones. However, these gave them the confidence to learn technical skills and knowledge on the job, from metal grinding and drilling through to welding and building the brake system.
For Toby, the high point in the run-up to the race was the positive impact that the project had on team building. He said:
“It was a great way for us to all get to know each other better. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in – it’s been really enjoyable. We’ve also learned so much about each other as well as about how to make a cart. I’m excited about my new-found welding skills, and it’s been so interesting to see what each of us have brought to the team. For instance, when we’ve been buffing up the metal, I’ve been doing it as quickly as I can to get the job done, while Mike has brought military precision to the job, spending hours on making sure it shines like a mirror!”
About the race itself and the design of the cart, Toby explains:
“Once we had decided to enter the Soap Box race with a Help for Heroes team it was really important for us to create something that stood out for us as a charity. That’s why we decided to build our cart in the form of a tank as it is such an iconic piece of military equipment. We couldn’t wait for everyone to see the four of us in Hero Bear suits with a tank hurtling down the hill!
“There was a brilliant atmosphere at the race and the camaraderie, not just amongst our team but all the other teams. It was really fun to be part of it and, although we didn’t win, we achieved our goal to build awareness of Help for Heroes, with some great TV coverage of our run on the day.”