A military veteran has walked the country from Land’s End to John O’Groats on crutches to help a West Norfolk charity.
Mark Harding was shot through the neck while serving in Afghanistan in 2010 shattering part of his spine and was told he would never walk again.
He has proved them wrong by walking the length of the nation in the Big Miles for Little Smiles Challenge for Scotty’s Little Soldiers, which supports hundreds of children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the Force.
Mark is thought to be the first disabled person ever to complete the challenge, which took him 104 days.
He said: “This has been the most mentally and physically difficult thing I’ve ever done. I can’t believe it’s over, to be honest. I’ve seen parts of the country most people don’t know even exist and met so many great people on the way. I’ve loved seeing people’s reactions when they find out what I’m doing and the support from everyone has been incredible. This is obviously a massive thing for me and I’m just grateful I can help raise money for Scotty’s.”
He continues: “As a result of nerve damage from being shot through the neck, I can’t have children now. For me, this has been a way of helping everyone else’s kids. It’s a way for me to have a really positive impact on children’s lives. Due to my injury, I have no feeling in my right leg and my foot drags when I’m tired, so I did the walk on crutches with everything I needed for the journey in a rucksack.”
Mark has received a huge amount of support from the British Public, as well as special letters from King Charles, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer. He also received the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award – presented to outstanding individuals making a positive change in their community.
Scotty’s Little Soldiers Founder, Nikki Scott, said of Mark’s challenge: “He’s done it! What Mark has achieved for bereaved British Forces children and young people is absolutely incredible and I can’t thank him enough for his dedication and support. I know how much this challenge has meant to him and everyone at Scotty’s has loved seeing his updates and hearing how he’s doing. I hope over the next few days he’s able to relax and reflect on the unbelievable thing he’s just done and take in what an inspiration he is.”