Founder's Awards recognise our blind veterans
These awards mark the founding of Blind Veterans UK when Sir Arthur Pearson opened the doors to war-blinded veterans in 1915 for the very first time.
They recognise the inspiring contributions of those who share the same boundless spirit as our founder and help us celebrate all that’s great about our charity.
Over 35 guests attended the ceremony, including nominees and those who nominated them. They listened to speeches and video messages about those nominated and enjoyed a delicious evening meal.
Nominees who could not attend in person were still able to join the ceremony via an online video link.
Winner - Jed Splain
Jed has been supported by us since October 2018. Jed is part of the Vision in Song choir and was nominated for his greatest strength, which lies in supporting and caring for other Members of the choir. He will often ring them to make sure they are alright and encourage them to speak with staff or seek professional support if they identify any issues. Jed welcomes all new Members of the choir with open arms and will always consider the thoughts and feelings of others when expressing himself. With the support of the charity, he has learned to manage his own sight loss journey, but also now openly assists other blind veterans through peer-to-peer support.
Winner - Keith Verral
Keith has been supported by us since 2017 and last year did some wood turning training locally. Keith now makes various items that he sells at craft fairs to raise money for Blind Veterans UK. He makes beautiful pens from a variety of woods that he purchases, then turns, treats, polishes, and finally assembles. He also makes candle holders, coasters. bottle stoppers and is currently trying his hand at egg cups. Alongside this, Keith volunteers with Age UK, holding a regular session for people with dementia who want to do something practical. Keith is not just creative, he is extremely kind, selfless, and giving.
Inspiring Community Award
Winners - Jules Lee and Les Fryer
Jules joined Blind Veterans UK in March 2019 in search of the camaraderie he missed from his time serving with the Army. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Jules began volunteering as a telephone befriender supporting other blind veterans and forming lasting friendships. He quickly became an integral part of remote introductory weeks, as he shared his experiences and knowledge with other veterans. Through his own initiative, Jules developed a monthly phone group that he continues to run today. He also co-hosts various lunch clubs, acts as a Peer Support lead in his local community, and regularly supports activity weeks at the Llandudno Centre. His sheer drive and determination are unquestionable.
Les started a new bowls group in Worthing last year, which now has 10 members. The group is for people in the local area and further afield who want to continue bowling after losing their sight. The group is now affiliated with the club, Worthing Pavilion Bowling Club, and they meet every Friday throughout the year thanks to Les’ efforts. He arrives two hours early to set up the green and so new members can have a trail session. Les is extremely dedicated and passionate to bring vision impaired bowlers the chance to try or return to the sport after sight loss.
Life Beyond Sight Loss Award
Winners - Ron Smith and Adam Walsh
Ron sadly recently became a widower and was informed that he is going blind that very same day. After a tackling a period of self-isolation, Ron became heavily involved in art and craft, which has provided him with drive, focus, and a new perspective on life. By using the kits available to him through the National Creative Project, Ron has become particularly skilled at diamond painting and building models of all types. He continues to excel in this area and now assists other blind veterans, encouraging them to get involved in what has become a great love of his. He is a shining example of courage in the face of adversity.
Adam was still serving in the RAF when he was medically discharged as a result of losing his sight. He had so much to overcome to re-build his life after joining as a young 16-year-old. On being medically discharged, Adam not only lost his career but also his housing, income, stability, and sight. It was so much for a young person to cope with, but Adam worked with Blind Veterans UK and other agencies to build his life after sight loss. Adam is now actively working 16 hours per week, walking to work using his cane, and can cook a meal and shop for himself. He participates in local veteran and military groups and has a new life with meaning, way beyond his expectations.
Outstanding Achievement Award
Winner - Noeline Charlesworth
Noeline started receiving our support in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her enthusiasm and passion towards engaging fully with the charity, and all it could offer, was evident from the very beginning. Noeline is highly motivated to get involved in any way she can and quickly also became a volunteer so she could support other veterans on their sight loss journeys. There is no end to Noeline’s care and compassion for other blind veterans; every week, she telephones and maintains contact with several across the UK, some of whom are socially isolated. Noeline has also fundraised over £1,200 for the charity from selling crafts and organising a raffle. Noeline’s genuine care for other blind veterans is an inspiration to all. She is tirelessly dedicated to supporting others and will put their needs before her own.
Sporting Achievement Award
Winners - Alan Lock and Andrew Leitch
Alan is an inspiring blind veteran. He has run the London Marathon numerous times and has organised his own fundraising events, such as the London Marathon finishers event. He has taken on so many sporting challenges in order to raise money and awareness for Blind Veterans UK. Last year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War, Alan took on a 40-mile ultra marathon completing 160 laps of a Royal Navy athletics track in Portsmouth before running his final mile to HMS Victory at the city’s historic dockyard. To date, this has raised almost £20,000 for the charity.
Despite facing significant challenges due to sight loss, Andy has shown remarkable determination and dedication to sport. He has participated in both physical and virtually in marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and the Brighton cycle ride in recent years. Andy continues to push himself to achieve great heights, demonstrating his commitment to overcoming his obstacles. This year, Andy is busy training for his eighth Marathon and is looking forward to being part of the great South run. He also represented Blind Veterans UK in Tel Aviv this summer. Andy has faced several challenges along his journey with sight loss, including navigating the world in a new way and adapting to life with vision impairment. Despite these challenges, he has continued to pursue his passion for running and is committed to fundraising for the charity. His many accomplishments at the face of adversity are truly remarkable, as he continues to inspire others with his remarkable determination and perseverance through sports.
Winner - Lesley Hall
At the time Lesley joined the charity in 2019, she had just been registered severely sight impaired, which happened very suddenly. Up until this point, she worked full time and was totally independent. After visiting the Brighton Centre, Lesley slowly began regaining skills and confidence to do things she never thought she would do again. Lesley managed to return to work after receiving lots of advice and equipment to aid her to do her job. After having long cane training last year, Lesley is now confident to go on trains and buses alone and can negotiate big shopping centres and escalators independently. Lesley is now confident and happy with life.
Ted Higgs Prize
Winner - Craig Lundberg
Craig lost his sight in a grenade explosion in 2007 whilst serving in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment as Section Commander. Craig has remained an inspirational blind veteran ever since. He is very active and challenges himself on a regular basis; determined to live life as fully as possible. Craig has completed the London Marathon and plays blind football for England; climbed Kilimanjaro; cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats; and carried the Olympic torch in 2012. He also runs a successful property management business together with his partner, Nicola. Craig is well connected in the local and business community and is happy to mentor anyone starting out or struggling to cope with their sight loss. He truly embodies Sir Arthur Pearson’s spirit.
Some of our winners
See Craig accepting his Ted Higgs Trophy
Sections of blind veteran Craig's speech when accepting the Ted Higgs Trophy, a special award for war-blinded veterans.
One of the winners on the night Jules, said: “I was blown away to have been nominated, let alone to have won. I feel very proud and humbled. I don’t think I do anything out of the ordinary so to be given this award for doing what I enjoy doing is an amazing feeling.”
Congratulations to all our winners!