Category Archives: Disability

From Strength To Strength

Veteran-Mark Smith

I served 10 years with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, but whilst overseas in 2011, I was shot several times, resulting in the loss of my right leg and part of my right shoulder.
I was subsequently medically discharged in 2013, this was after 10 weeks in Hospital, over 20 operations and being resuscitated six times! Due to being nil by mouth fairly often, I lost over 20kg during my time in Hospital and after seeing myself deteriorate every day that I looked in the mirror, I vowed I’d never look that ill again.

Myself on stage

Myself on stage

Fast forward to the present day and I kept my promise to myself-Since November 2014 I have been competing as a Disability Bodybuilder and it has been amazing so far. I won my first competition last November, then received an invite to compete in America, which I took up and in March, competed and won in Texas and best of all, I was invited back on stage to pose with current 4 times Mr Olympia, Phil Heath! Since returning, I have competed in an able bodied Novice class, where I took Best up and coming bodybuilder and now have 3 competitions in the next 3 weekends.
When I left the Forces, I went through what most lads go through-Missing being a Squaddie, but being stubborn, I stuck it out and getting involved in this sport has been my own anti-depressant.

Phil Heath and I

Phil Heath and I

I have appeared on various radio stations, national newspapers, TV documentaries and been signed to a management company, as well as becoming a sponsored athlete and I’ve even been invited to be involved in this years Body Power Expo at the NEC. The interest in myself and the potential have been overwhelming and I’m keen to share this with other veterans who have been injured, who perhaps aren’t aware that there is a Disability Bodybuilding class. I’m convinced it’s the perfect transition for Squaddies-The routine, discipline and physical nature mean the strengths of coming from a military background make it feel similar, which I think has helped me overcome missing being a Soldier.

I have my own bodybuilding page and I’d be more than happy to talk with any lads interested in finding out more. It would be a very proud moment to step on stage with a veteran that I have inspired to become a bodybuilder.

For more information you can visit

Experience the Magic!

Longridge Activity Centre

I was very privileged to have recently been invited to visit Longridge Activity Centre in Marlow, which is set in a unique riverside location on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Longridge is a premier, year round river –side water sports and activity Centre for young people, individuals and families. Its prime function is to provide fully inclusive, affordable outdoor activities for all. It is truly a remarkable Centre!!

As well as 12 acres of beautiful water meadows it has its own island, “Taylor Island”, for the ultimate Swallows and Amazons experience. Taylor Island also gives you a sheltered backwater in which young people and families can experience the river with confidence.

See the Longridge Video.


The longridge Centre nestles in a bend on the River Thames, a little downstream from the town of Marlow, leading to a strong tradition in water sports, and has produced many excellent oarsman and women, including Sir Steven Redgrave, who is arguably the finest Olympian of all time, winning Gold medals at 5 successive Olympic Games.

Longridge was established as a canoeing, rowing and sailing centre 50 years ago by the Scout Association and, following on from this sound ethical background, the Centre is now a registered charity, dedicated to helping young people from all walks of life and abilities to develop water skills as well as leadership, self-discipline, confidence and respect.

What does it offer

The Centre has that much to offer it is so difficult to know where to start. There are Field and Environmental Studies, Activity Courses, Leadership Training, Outdoor Experiences, Summer Camps, Family Activity Days and even Corporate Programmes. There is also a Youth Club for young people to make new friends and socialise. To see the Course programmes and activities please visit.

Boating fun at Longridge


The accommodation options include 350 camping spaces, 20 bunk house beds and 9 rooms with ensuite facilities. The accommodation is complemented with flexible catering options, allowing groups to self-cater or meals can be provided from the on-site café. There is also a range of well-equipped training and conference rooms.

The karting track at Longridge


With an excellent safety record, Longridge is recognised as being a leading training centre for young people and their leaders. They are LOTC (Learning Outside The Classroom) and AALA (Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority) accredited and in addition are approved by BCU (British Canoe Union), RYA (Royal Yachting Association), British Rowing and are a 2012 pre-games training centre as well as being recognised by Buckinghamshire County Council as an outdoor activity centre and the Duke of Edinburgh Award as an Operating Authority. All our instructors are fully trained to BCU, BR, RYA and AALA standards and all staff have undergone the statutory enhanced CRB checks to confirm their suitability of work with young people.

Longridge is full of fun, learning and character, a fatastic Centre well worth a visit!!!

For more information visit

Longridge, Quarry Wood Road, Marlow, Bucks, SL7 1RE.
Registered Charity No. 1121239 Phone: 01628 483252 Email:

Cadet overcomes Autism to earns BTEC award

Maidstone Sea Cadet Callum Helwege

Maidstone Sea Cadet Callum Helwege is celebrating after overcoming the challenge of living with autism to earn a CVQO-led Edexcel BTEC Level 1 vocational qualification.

For Able Cadet Callum, (14), who attends Bower Grove School, it is his first recognised educational qualification and one that has had a huge impact on his confidence according to his mum, Samantha Stevens, an adult volunteer at the Maidstone Sea Cadet Unit.

Michael Bax, High Sheriff of Kent, Able Cadet Callum Helwegge, Bryn Price, Kent People’s Trust, Petty Officer Samantha Stevens (Callum’s mother) and Edward Woods, chief executive of CVQO.

Samantha said: “He has benefited greatly from the BTEC qualification in Teamwork, Personal Skills and Citizenship. Because he’s autistic he wouldn’t have had the same chance to do the qualification and even in his special school he would not be doing GCSEs.

“He’s as chuffed and punch and may even think about taking a Level 2 qualification now as his confidence is sky high.”

Along with other members of Maidstone Sea Cadets, Callum received his certificate from the High Sheriff of Kent, Michael Bax, at a special presentation evening at the Sea Cadet Unit.

Callum was able to take the BTEC qualification, delivered by education charity CVQO, because of sponsorship by the Kent Peoples’ Trust which has funded a total of 50 cadets from across Kent.

Edward Woods, chief executive of CVQO said: “This is a great achievement for Callum and I’m delighted that he CVQO-led Level 1 qualification means so much to him. It’s important that we give all young people, whatever their ability, the opportunity to show what they can do and to achieve recognised qualifications. I am very grateful to the Kent People’s Trust for funding the Kent cadets. Without their generous support the fifty cadets and particularly Callum would not have been able to achieve this qualification.”

For more information contact

Cerebral Palsy in the Army Cadet Force

My name is Amanda Sargeant aka Bonsai. I have Cerebral Palsy and so suffer from brain damage, due to the fact that I was born premature.

In 2000 I was introduced to the Surrey Army Cadet Force (ACF) by one of my dad’s friends who ran the Walton Detachment at that time.   I thought it would be fun and a great opportunity to make friends in my local area as my school was some way off.

Throughout my time at Cadets my self confidence and self esteem had greatly improved. I have made a good deal of friends some of which I still speak to today, some 12 years on.

Civillian Assistant Amanda Sargeant

During the 2 and half years as a Cadet I participated in many events, such as the Remembrance parades, the poppy collecting and many other community events.

The Cadets teaches young people to respect others and the importance of teamwork and communication, all of which I believe are lacking in today’s young people. Activities such as command tasks, drill, and skill at arms strengthen all of these attributes.

Due to my disability I have to use a light manual wheelchair. Cadets being the organisation that they are had never experienced a physically disabled Cadet until now. So my joining was an eye opener. There was no disabled access into the Walton’s Detachment. Surrey Army Cadet Force recognised this problem and rectified it by creating a disabled access ramp going in to the Detachment,  they also installed a disabled toilet. So now it accessible for me and other disabled Cadets who may wish to join in the future.

I was an Army cadet for 2 and half years but had to leave due to the fact I was moving house which was in another area.

At the end of last year I was at a loose end in my life and was looking for a new challenge. So I got back in contact with the Walton Detachment Commander and he suggested I should rejoin the Army Cadets as a Civilian Assistant

Now I am back at Walton detachment and my main priority at the moment is sitting in on lessons refreshing on things I have forgotten with the aim of assisting in lessons.

For more information on Surrey Army Cadet Force please visist: or tel no 01483 425371