Army veteran closes in on ‘mind-blowing' £500,000 fundraising target

Royal Engineers veteran Steve Craddock, 62, is Help For Heroes' biggest individual fundraiser.

An Army veteran has refused to let the Covid-19 pandemic stop him raising money for a good cause as he closes in on his £500,000 target.

Steve Craddock, 62, is Help For Heroes’ biggest individual fundraiser, having raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity.

The former Royal Engineers sergeant, who lives in Chatham, Kent, has been outspoken about his struggles with mental health issues in the past.

Over the last 13 years he has been a dedicated fundraiser for Help For Heroes, knowing on a personal level the help they provide for injured servicemen and women.

Steve Craddock fundraiser
Steve Craddock is closing in on his £500,000 target (Steve Craddock/PA)

He was also one of five veterans taken up in a Second World War Dakota plane which dropped 750,000 poppies over the White Cliffs of Dover on Remembrance Sunday last year.

On Saturday, he is set to embark on a 420-mile cycling challenge from Rochester in Kent to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, in a bid to raise the final £11,000 of his £500,000 target.

Mr Craddock joined the Army at the age of 17 and served multiple tours of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, patrolling some of the most dangerous areas of the country.

He left the Army in 1990 but said everything came crashing down when his brother died in tragic circumstances.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Craddock said: “I was having nightmares, night sweats and reliving in full HD the sounds, sights and smells from some of the worst atrocities committed by the terrorists during the Troubles.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD and was in a terrible mental state.”

He sought medical help, got in touch with Help For Heroes and vowed to get better.

Steve Craddock fundraiser
Steve Craddock said he relives ‘in full HD’ the sounds, sights and smells from some of the worst atrocities from Northern Ireland’s Troubles (Steve Craddock/PA)

Mr Craddock resolved to take part in the charity’s first ever Big Battlefield Bike Ride – now an annual 350-400-mile ride across battlefields of northern France – even though he was out of shape at the time.

Despite the difficulties, he found that he loved cycling and getting on a bike was the first step in his recovery.

Following that challenge, he got on his bike most days as this gave him a reason to get out of bed and leave the house.

It also helped lift his mood and his feelings of isolation by being able to cycle with other people.

To date he has organised and been involved in more than 50 cycle-based fundraising events, and cycles thousands of miles every year.

Steve Craddock fundraiser
Army veteran Steve Craddock has organised and been involved in more than 50 cycle-based fundraising events (Steve Craddock/PA)

His efforts to pass the £500,000 mark have been hampered in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen events cancelled and France taken off the list of safe travel destinations.

He said: “Every day there are more veterans who need the support Help For Heroes provides, and as long as one veteran continues to need help, I will be there raising funds for them. In fact it’s more important now than ever as lockdown has led to all fundraising events being cancelled.”

David Martin, head of supporter fundraising at Help For Heroes, said: “To raise almost £500,000 on his own is just mind-blowing and we can’t thank Steve enough – I hope people give generously for his challenge to get him to his target.”

– The fundraising page can be accessed here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cycle2recovery

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