Media Release: Blind ex-service heroes head to North Pole for charity fundraiser

BLIND former armed forces comrades Jamie Cuthbertson and Mike Scholes will head to the North Pole in April completing ambitious challenges to raise much-needed funds for St. Dunstan’s.

St. Dunstan’s is a charity which gives invaluable physical and emotional support to blind and visually-impaired ex-Service men and women helping them to lead independent, fulfilling lives.

The two men will face sub-zero temperatures as Jamie takes part in the North Pole Marathon and Mike starts an eight day trek across one of the world’s most uninhabitable landscapes, in a bid to bring greater awareness of the plight of blind and visually-impaired ex-service men and women.

Jamie, from Glasgow, was a captain in the Royal Engineers when he was blinded after an army training exercise went wrong.  Jamie, just 26 at the time, was robbed of his sight when a box of 100 detonators went off 3 ft away from him.

Jamie, 49, said: “After the accident I spent four weeks in Cambridge Military Hospital before being transferred to St. Dunstan’s training centre for rehabilitation. At St. Dunstan’s I met so many amazing people who had been injured during World War II and I realised just how lucky I was.

“After seven months I left the centre and was keen to get back to normality. I had always enjoyed running so I wasn’t going to give it up. Taking up running again felt natural. A number of friends and members of my family helped me train, using a short rope for guidance. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been to some amazing places and competed in many challenges, but this one is very special.

“I want to take part in the North Pole marathon to raise awareness of the important role St. Dunstan’s plays in the lives of many ex-Service men and women.”

Mike, from Lindfield, Sussex, was a pilot in the Royal Navy and in the RAF volunteer reserve before setting up his own passenger ballooning business, Chad Ballooning. During that time he set 5 British ballooning duration records and became one of only nine British pilots to fly a hot air balloon above 31,000 ft.

In April 2007, Prince Andrew presented Mike with the Royal Aero Club Bronze medal for ballooning. Seven months later, Mike suddenly lost most of his sight and had to sell the business. He was diagnosed with the genetic condition Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.

Mike, 56, said: “The condition means that I have very limited peripheral vision as if I am permanently looking through a thick fog and can only see things if they are really close up or if there is a lot of contrast. I certainly haven’t let it hold me back, and if anything I am more determined than ever to keep my independence and continue to take up challenges.”

Since losing his sight, Mike has taken up running marathons and has even been skiing with St Dunstan’s.

In a small group led by explorer and fellow balloonist David Hempleman-Adams, Mike will trek around 70 miles hauling a sledge filled with food, equipment and a tent across the rugged Arctic terrain to the geographic North Pole. Once there, he aims to create an unofficial world record by making the most northerly balloon flight piloted by a registered blind person.

Mike said: “I know this is a tough challenge but I’m training for it every day and I am really looking forward to it. It will be great to complete this trek in aid of St. Dunstan’s and raise awareness of the tremendous work they do. It is a fantastic charity which does so much to support ex- service personnel who have lost their sight.”

Sports enthusiasts Jamie and Mike are no strangers to pushing themselves to the limit and their impressive CVs already include achievements which would put most athletes to shame.

Jamie completed the gruelling 150 mile Marathon des Sables in Morocco in 2000, competed in the European Blind Athletics Championships in 1995, trekked 150 miles across the Mongolian Gobi Desert in 2003 and took part in the Trans 333, in the Sahara Desert.

In 2009 Mike completed his first triathlon and London Marathon as a member of the St Dunstan’s teams, finishing the latter in 3 hrs 7 mins. In September he was 4th in his age group in the BUPA Great North Run. A few days after returning from the Pole, he will be running in the Virgin London Marathon hoping to achieve an even better time.

Jamie said: “We’ve had lots of training and experience so we’re confident that we’re more than up to our Arctic challenges. Our only hope is that we don’t meet any grumpy polar bears along the way!”

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Issued by The BIG Partnership on behalf of St. Dunstan’s.

For further information please contact:

Contact: Kevin Macnaught or Natasha Lobley

Tel:         0141 333 9585

Mob:       07895 002034 (KM) or 07974 688501 (NL)

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Contact: Kevin Macnaught
Phone: 0141 333 9585