The official Help for Heroes cricket XI has raised more than £120,000 for the Armed Forces charity in seven years – but it achieves much more than that and is now looking for eligible players of all abilities across the country.
While cricket may be the focal point for activity, organiser Barrie Griffiths insists the actual game is just a small part of the benefit veterans obtain from participating.
Griffiths, a former Group Captain in the RAF, sustained life-changing spinal cord injuries in the course of his military service and was forced to retire on medical grounds in April 2015.
He explained: “The raison d’être of the cricket team is reflective of what the charity does: sports recovery and fellowship – and the guys get plenty of both.
“That’s what we say: ‘it’s all about the guys’, both men and women. We’re not bothered as to gender, mobility or ability: former first-class cricketer or complete novice, it’s really about the participation, not the match result.
“One of the big things for veterans upon leaving the service is the loss of camaraderie they feel when they find themselves in Civvy Street and, even if they’re lucky enough to have family around them, it’s understandable they still miss that fellowship.
“The Help for Heroes cricket XI has helped many veterans enormously, both physically and mentally – and all while helping to raise money for a charity which provides that support across the country to other veterans. It also gives the guys a great sense of being able to give something back to an organisation which has done so much for them and their families.”
The team was unable to fulfil any official fixtures in 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions, but the fixture card is looking much better in 2021 – and for the years ahead. However, Griffiths believes to continue providing the support it does, paradoxically, it needs more players keen to benefit from that support.
He added: “The loss of fixtures last year had a significant knock-on effect, not just in fundraising, but also in terms of squad depth. Because of the uncertain world we still find ourselves in, not as many people have come forward this season.
“We’re in contact with them because we realise the benefits the cricket offers, but, understandably, some are not prepared to travel in the way they did pre-pandemic. So, we’re looking for new players from across the country who would also appreciate all the fellowship advantages we afford.”
The plan is, ultimately, to set up regional centres where potential veteran cricketers can enjoy the company of fellow veterans and also receive cricket coaching in a friendly and non-competitive environment.
Forthcoming fixtures this summer include scheduled visits to the Royal Household CC, at Windsor Castle; Long Sutton CC, in Lincolnshire; and the ‘Cradle of Cricket’, Hambledon CC, at Broadhalfpenny Down, in Hampshire.
Help for Heroes believes those who serve our country deserve support when they’re wounded. Every day, men and women have to leave their career in the Armed Forces as a result of physical or psychological wounds. The Charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 26,500 people and won’t stop until every wounded veteran gets the support they deserve.
■ For more details on the Help for Heroes cricket XI, or to participate, contact organiser Barrie Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ For further information on Help for Heroes, or to get support, visit helpforheroes.org.uk.