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BLESMA aims for gold

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Thursday 30 Aug 2012 – As London’s summer of sport continues the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA) will be following the fortunes of its elite athletes closely.

Supported by the Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, BLESMA is a charity that directly supports all service men and women who lose limbs, the use of limbs or eyes or the sight of an eye in British military service.

Their work starts with rehabilitation and is about amputee helping amputee – the fellowship of shared experience.They provide life-long welfare support and campaign on behalf of the ex-service men and women. Their youngest member is 19 years old and the oldest 99.

The valuable role that sport can play in rehabilitation is highlighted by the number of BLESMA members competing for Team GB in the Paralympic Games. Athletes include Derek Derenalagi (track and field), Nick Beighton (rowing), John Robertson (sailing), Jon-Allan Butterworth (track cycling) and Netra Rana, Samantha Bowen and Charlie Walker (sitting volleyball).

Today’s BLESMA athletes continue a tradition established on 28 July 1948 by 16 injured former British service personnel who took part in a pioneering archery competition. Dr Ludwig Guttmann held the event at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for rehabilitated British soldiers on the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the XIV Olympic Games in London.

Two teams of disabled athletes took to the hospital lawns – the Star and Garter Home from Richmond, Surrey and Stoke Mandeville. In 1952 more sports were added to the event and athletes from Holland took part – the International Paralympic Movement was born.

Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund was founded by the market in 1803 at the start of the Napoleonic Wars to help injured servicemen and their families, and has supported many armed forces charities. This year the Fund is working with BLESMA and has contributed £200, 000 towards its 2012 programme of rehabilitative sporting activities.

“We felt BLESMA’s work was a great fit with what Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund was set up to do, ” says Vicky Mirfin, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Lloyd’s. “BLESMA is a small charity, but very highly regarded in the armed forces community.”

Jerome Church MBE, general secretary of BLESMA, believes that its partnership with Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund has been very significant. He says: “The Fund’s extraordinarily generous donation was absolutely fundamental to the successful expansion of our work – and of course the icing on the cake was seeing some Lloyd’s staff joining us for a number of events.”

To find out more about Lloyd’s volunteering with BLESMA contact janis.hunt@lloyds.com.

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