The conflict in Afghanistan has raised awareness of the sacrifice our soldiers make in the line of duty.
One local business is showing its support not just by raising funds but by dedicating part of its site to a unique memorial for the fallen.
VICTORIA PREST found out more.
Businesswoman Pam Dyson leads the team at Cascade Garden Centre who have taken on a massive fundrasing task to help injured soldiers and remember the fallen.
Pam and her husband Dave have run the Bishop Monkton garden centre since 2003 and each year choose a charity to support. Inspired by staff member Angela Gleeson, whose son James is in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards currently serving in Afghanistan, they chose Help the Heroes as their charity in September 2010. Since then they have raised £40,000 towards a new rehabilitation centre for injured soldiers at Catterick.
“Watching Angela go through six months of worrying made us decide to support the armed forces in Afghanistan,” Pam said.
“Then when the fatalities hit 300 last year we felt we had to make a difference.”
So the team created a memorial to fallen soldiers at the garden centre. A black Christmas tree stands in the foyer, hung with tributes to each of the 371 British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan.
“The tree started as a concept in the middle of the night. I knew we had this black Christmas tree, and was trying to think of something we could do,” Pam said.
It has become a focal point for soldiers stationed in the area paying tribute to comrades as well as families from much further afield.
“The guys come to the tree and often get emotional, and every week there is a family come to find a relative.
“They come from all over the country.”
Pam is hoping the people of Ripon and Yorkshire will get behind their efforts to help injured soldiers.
“Yorkshire is the biggest county in England, with a massive military presence. By 2012 Catterick will be the biggest garrison in Europe, but we are not doing enough. We need the general public to support the armed forces.”
At the beginning of their fundraising they set a target of £100,000, which they are well on their way to achieving. The money will go towards the £8million Personal Recovery Centre planned for Catterick Garrison.
The centre will be the only one of its kind in the north of England, and is vitally important for an area with such a strong military presence, Pam said.
Their fundraising and support for injured soldiers has become a huge part of the team’s life.
“I am walking and living and breathing this every single day. Each of our staff members spends about two nights a week on it,” Pam said. And Angela credits the fundraising with getting her through the ordeal of watching her son leave for Afghanistan.
“It’s brilliant. I wouldn’t have been able to cope without it, I was a mess everyday,” she said.
The team has also found ways to support injured soldiers and their families in the area. They have organised garden makeovers, upgraded the play area at Catterick Garrison and refurbished the welfare unit on a local base.
Next on their agenda is the Family Fun Day at Ripon Racecourse on Armed Forces Day Saturday, June 25, which Pam hopes will become a yearly fixture in the city’s calendar.
“We want it to become an annual event, but it will take time to become established like the Knaresborough Bed Race. That’s successful in its 46th year and we are in year one. But we cannot deliver without the people of Ripon and Harrogate getting behind us,”
The event includes an ‘It’s a Knockout’ competition and is still looking for teams and sponsorship from local businesses; as well as helicopter pleasure flights; F1 and Delfin fighter simulators; a fun zone; and refreshments from David Lishman’s barbecue team, Black Sheep Brewery and Rory’s Retreat.
For more information or to enter a team contact Cascade Garden Centre on 01765 677456/676727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.