Gerry Beaty

Gerry led a team of retired firemen on a 96-mile fundraising trek for SSAFA, after hearing an Afghanistan veteran's tale.

Gerry Beaty

Gerry led a team of retired firemen on a 96-mile fundraising trek for SSAFA, after hearing an Afghanistan veteran's tale.

Inspired by a chance encounter with a veteran who received support from SSAFA, Gerry Beaty raised thousands of pounds for the charity. A retired fireman, he feels an affinity with serving military and veterans, and rounded up colleagues to embark on a trek to make a difference.

“I met a young veteran while out walking in Glencoe” Gerry explains, “He had served in Afghanistan and he had clearly been quite damaged from his experience there, but he told me he had been helped by SSAFA to come to terms with what happened, access counselling for his PTSD and get his life back together.

“I was so taken with him and his story and the people who helped him at SSAFA that I thought I could pay a little bit back.”

Gerry, who has a keen interest in walking, decided to get a group of retired fire crew together to trek across the 96-mile West Highland Way. The Surrey Lamp Swingers were formed.

“We trained to make sure everyone was capable of finishing the challenge, and to make sure they were committed. We formulated a plan for fundraising and tried to get as many people to back us as possible. We paid our own costs and aimed to meet a target of £1,000. By the end we’d actually raised £7,000 which was fantastic! We know that SSAFA will use that money really well to help our veterans.”

It was a real big boys adventure

Gerry and the crew, aged between 51 and 73 years old, took on the week-long challenge in May.

“We got the train to Glasgow and began our way to Fort William. We wild camped next to rivers, we stayed in hostels and camp sites – it was a real big boys adventure.

“The tents froze on a couple of occasions and some days were tough – doing 22 miles carrying a lot of kit.

“Walking into Fort William was emotional, as some of the team really didn’t want it to end. They were visibly upset that the adventure was over, and emotional because they knew they had done a good job for the charity.

“The challenge has impacted everyone that’s been involved. Campsite owners wouldn’t take money from us, we had a quiz night and the winners put the prize money back in the charity pot. Most importantly it’s made people realise just how good our services are and we all need to get behind them.

“We were really happy and quite proud to help support the servicemen and women who support us the whole time.”

We are able to recognise how difficult it must be for the military at times.

Gerry, who spent 32 years in the fire service, feels his own experiences create a connection with those in the Forces.

“Not only is the fire service based on naval regulations and naval drill, and a common career path for ex-military, we in some small way have an understanding of the things the military have to deal with. We are able to recognise how difficult it must be for the military at times.

“Fire fighters certainly recognise how difficult PTSD is to come to terms with and that is why we were very keen to support the military in any way we can.”

They are a hands-on, front-line charity that really do deliver the goods

Now Gerry is a firm supporter of SSAFA for life and encourages everyone to learn about what the charity does.

“They are a hands-on, front-line charity that really do deliver the goods for the people that need it, when they need it, where they need it – and I think they do it really well.

“I’ve done a couple of charity bits and pieces over the years, but I have got to say I have found SSAFA the best charity I have ever raised money for. They have supported us right the way through.”