An RAF veteran left paralysed from the chest down after a motorbike accident has turned his life around with the help of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
John Robertson, from Seaburn Dene, served in the RAF from 1989 to 1996 as a weapons technician with 20 (R) Squadron, working on Harrier jump jets.
After his motorcycle accident in 1994, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the organisation’s leading welfare charity, supported the 43-year-old with a flat through its Housing Trust and then in 2014, it bought the former Monkwearmouth pupil a specialist sports wheelchair that has helped John pursue his passion for sailing.
He will travel to Melbourne in November to compete in the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships, one of the qualifiers for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
John’s story has been highlighted by the RAF Benevolent Fund as it launches a campaign in the North East to let veterans and serving personnel in the region know that help is at hand for all former RAF personnel who need assistance.
John, a former senior aircraftman, said: “The help I received from the RAF Benevolent Fund has been absolutely life changing.
“They bought me a flat 17 years ago which enabled me to be independent and pursue my sailing career. Without it I would have been living with my parents for years or been in whatever council housing could have been found for me.
“More recently they bought me a specialist sports wheelchair, which will help me as I pursue gold at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Whatever your need the RAF Benevolent Fund can help you – they can assist in so many different ways and I urge RAF personnel, who are serving or who left the service years ago, to contact them today if they need support.”
John has previously represented Great Britain at three Summer Paralympics and just missed out on a bronze medal in the London 2012 games, finishing fifth with his colleagues Stephen Thomas and Hannah Stodel.
Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Too often, RAF veterans simply don’t know that help is at hand.
“But the message of our campaign is simple: If you or your partner were in the RAF and are in financial need, or you need advice and guidance, we will try to help. We would especially urge those members of the RAF Family who have been affected by the recent redundancies in the North East to come forward.”
For more information on the fund, call 0800 169 2400 or visit www.rafbf.org/help.