Brentwood Gazette Website 18 August 2015

Article from the Brentwood Gazette website 18 August 2015

Former RAF gunner visits North Weald Airfield during 1,000-mile charity wheelchair ride

Pushing On: Sean Allerton gets wheeling

Pushing On: Sean Allerton gets wheeling

“I HATE the word inspirational – I honestly don’t think I’m anything special and if more people supported others in this world then I wouldn’t look so special.”

‘Inspirational’ may be a word sometimes overused, so it’s ironic a person who most people would agree should be described in such a way, is so adamant it does not apply to him.

After breaking his neck in a motorbike crash while serving for the RAF in Cyprus at the age of 28, few would be able to say they were not inspired by what Sean Allerton has done since.

The Yorkshireman visited North Weald Airfield last Wednesday, where he completed another part of his challenge that will raise funds

for three RAF charities and Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.

“As soon as the crash happened my life changed,” said the former RAF regiment gunner. “Because of the severity of my injury I knew straightaway there was no way I could get back to my job.

“I was 110 yards away from my room, which I was going back to after working a shift, when the motorbike I was riding pillion on apparently clipped its back wheel on the kerb and came off the road.

“I only remember five minutes before the crash and then I don’t remember the next two months.

“Luckily, they had just changed the guard’s shift and he came across and found the crash straightaway.

“I spent three days in the military hospital in Cyprus before being flown to the UK where I was in hospital for another 50 weeks.

“Since I was five all I wanted to do was be a soldier and all of a sudden, without any warning, that was taken away.

“But that doesn’t mean my life has to stop.”

The crash and subsequent broken neck left Sean with tetraplegia, a form of paralysis which means he cannot use his legs or his hands.

But that did not stop him from pushing himself in a challenge that many able-bodied people would struggle to complete.

After applying for a scholarship through charity Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, Sean learnt to fly in September 2011, even flying solo.

“Because of what flying gave me I wanted to ‘give back’ and that is why my challenge is important to me – to give back to those who got me to where I am now,” he said.

“As soon as I heard The Proclaimers had become patrons of The Forgotten Heroes, I knew I would have to push myself in my wheelchair 500 miles.”

Since then, Sean has gone on to complete two sets of 500 miles by taking on the distance in chunks on tracks at airfields across the country, so far raising over £27,000.

He is now working towards completing the first chorus of the Scottish band’s hit I’m Gonna Be, by pushing himself 1,000 miles, which is what brought him to North Weald Airfield.

“The first 500 miles took me ten months but since then I have done half marathons, marathons, 24-hour events and I’ve done it in minus seven degrees, 38 degrees and in 45-knot gusts of wind,” he added.

“It’s a bit of a struggle because as I’m tetraplegic it means I can’t grip the wheels and have to use the flat of my hands.”

Sean’s appearance at North Weald had him add three-and-a-half miles to his total, which now stands at 613.34 miles.

“It was a fantastic atmosphere. Lots of people came to support me, it was my 50th birthday as well and they brought out a birthday cake for me,” he said.

“I feel so honoured at the amount of support I was given. A few people I served with drove from places as far away as Brighton to come a support me.”

With 387 miles left of the 1,000-mile target, what’s next for Sean?

“This is only the first chorus – after I’ve finished this I still have 6,000 more miles to do,” he said.

Sean’s Push 500 Challenge is in aid of the Royal Air Forces Association, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.

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