Wounded war hero Ben Parkinson MBE reached another major milestone in his remarkable recovery when he proudly strode forward to officially launch the Get Doncaster Walking Festival.
The 31-year-old former paratrooper was nearly killed while serving in the British Army in Afghanistan in 2006 when a Taliban bomb blew up a Land Rover he was travelling in.
He lost both legs and suffered injuries including brain damage, and has been described as the UK’s most severely injured soldier to survive his wounds.
Ben has continually defied the odds to complete a number of charity challenges and in his latest achievement he managed to walk around one mile on prosthetic legs to mark the launch of the town’s 10th annual walking festival.
The Bessacarr man led about 200 walkers on a trek around the Keepmoat Stadium and Lakeside area. He managed to complete about half of the 1.7 mile route before rejoining everyone for the final part.
He said: “The walking festival is a brilliant idea. If I can do it, anyone can.
“The Lakeside area is a beautiful place to go walking. I’m proud that we have such a place in Doncaster.
Ben’s mum Diane Dernie, 57, added: “I am very, very proud of my son. He just keeps on going and moving forward.”
Representatives from Club Doncaster, Doncaster Rovers, Doncaster Knights Rugby Club and Ben’s Pilgrim Bandits charity also attended the launch on Saturday. Walkers were also offered reduced-price tickets to Doncaster Rovers’ home game in the afternoon against Gillingham.
Get Doncaster Walking is a council-led programme of free organised walks, ranging from light strolls to more lengthy walks in the country, designed to get local people of all fitness levels out enjoying the fresh air, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and socialising.
Doncaster mayor Ros Jones said: “The Get Doncaster Walking programme is an excellent scheme that helps to encourage more healthy and active lifestyles, and what a powerful way to celebrate its 10 years than for Ben Parkinson, a local hero and source of inspiration for so many of us, to lead the first walk.”
For more information about the festival and available routes visit Doncaster Council’s website at www.doncaster.gov.uk