Invictus athlete gets behind Somerset disabled people

2 August 2017

Invictus athelete AJ Pingram Invictus athelete Alastair ‘AJ’ Pingram is throwing his support behind a campaign to boost sporting opportunities for disabled people in Somerset, by helping a Leonard Cheshire Disability run care home fundraise for more inclusive sport.

The 40-year-old proud owner of four gold, three silver and one bronze Invictus Games medals will be a speaker at Greenhill House in Bath’s fundraising masquerade ball on Saturday 23 September at the Bath Assembly Rooms. The care home for adults with physical disabilities hopes to raise £10,000 for more sport for the disabled people it supports.

AJ, who is a wheelchair basketball player, said:

‘It is my honour and pleasure to be supporting the Leonard Cheshire Disability, because it gives me the opportunity to talk to and hopefully inform people both with and without disabilities about the benefits that they can gain from taking part in sport and fitness, both physically and mentally.’

Invictus Games is the Prince Harry created international, Paralympic-style event. Wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and associated veterans take part in a variety of sports, including wheelchair basketball and indoor rowing.

AJ originally joined the Royal Navy in 1996 as a marine engineer mechanical. During his time in the Navy, he joined their hockey team, but in 1998 his bilateral ankle ligaments disintegrated.

He said:

‘I had several unsuccessful operations and was eventually medically discharged in 2000.

‘Over the following years my leg injuries worsened after many more operations, as did my mental health.

‘The Invictus Games training and competition changed my life for the better in so many ways. Winning a gold medal was amazing but also I'm now fitter, healthier and confident!’

AJ will be joining Olympic gold medal winning athlete Jason Gardener MBE as one of the special guests at the masquerade ball in September, along with multi-medal winning Paralympian Ben Rushgrove.

Nigel Murray MBE Paralympic Boccia player will also be speaking. All will be welcomed by the Leonard Cheshire Disability chief executive, Neil Heslop.

The ball, called the ‘Centenary Masquerade Ball’, is part of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of its founder, war hero and global humanitarian Leonard Cheshire.

Greenhill House resident Jane Harding said:

‘We’ve never done [an event like] this before. It’s a new experience for all of us, with so many wonderful prizes in the auction to raise money for our home. It will be amazing.

‘It’s exciting having something to look forward to. You get to dress up — you don’t get a chance to look your best every day and I know a lot of hard work has gone into [the event].

‘I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved and am looking forward to meeting the speakers, guests and fantastic [musicians] on the night.’

For sports fans, there will be plenty of exciting auction prizes available at Greenhill House’s masquerade ball.

As well as a porsche driving experience at Silverstone and a signed Nigel Murray shirt from Rio, there is a professional golf lesson with Jonathan Lawrence PGA professional and a bobsleigh experience for 10 people up for grabs.

Local schools and parents will also be interested to hear young football teams (aged up to 14 years old) can enter a competition to play football at a Premier League team’s ground for a day.

Outside of the sporting world, there is also a RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight VIP day for four plus a Spitfire flight over Biggin Hill, including the chance to control the aircraft. There are also balloon flights, theatre performances, hotel overnight stays and Spa experiences up for grabs.

Tickets can be bought by calling 01761 479 902 or emailing greenhillevents@leonardcheshire.org. Tickets are priced at £95 a person. Seating will be in tables of 10 (masks are not compulsory!).

The ball runs from 7pm, with carriages at midnight. Any local businesses interested in sponsoring the event should contact Ann on ann.birtwistle@leonardcheshire.org or call 01761 479 902.

Media enquires

For media enquiries, high res images and interview requests please contact Claire Farrell on claire.farrell@leonardcheshire.org or call 020 3242 0204.

Current local businesses supporting the event include: Honeybourne Facilities Group, Moneta Wealth Management, Minuteman Press, Media Clash, Barclaycard, Mindmaze and Wessex Water.