Veterans with vision impairment across Scotland get marching for Scottish War Blinded's 500 Miles Challenge

Press Release | 01/05/2019

Veterans with sight loss across Scotland will unite to embrace the benefits of walking in a collective 500 Miles Challenge this May with charity Scottish War Blinded.

Scottish War Blinded members of all ages will step into action in an almighty effort to collectively clock up 1,117,500 steps, equating to a 500-mile distance, over a six-week period.

The aim is to support Scottish War Blinded veterans in being more active, particularly those of older age, uniting them in exercise and proving sight loss is no barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“Walking is very, very valuable and I feel most veterans will be able to do it – and not only that, will enjoy it,” explained World War Two veteran Gordon Mills, 97, of Edinburgh, who came up with the idea for the 500 Miles Challenge.

The energetic RAF veteran, who regularly attends Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre in West Lothian, and last year experienced skiing for the very first time through the charity, is keen to encourage his fellow veterans to join him in feeling the physical and mental benefits of walking.

Inspired by the tale of a friend who transformed his fitness through walking –  and The Proclaimers’ earworm anthem I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – he is now rallying the troops to ‘walk with Gordon’.

Gordon, who has eye condition macular degeneration, said: “I’ve always been into walking. The idea came to me after an 85-year-old friend, who was feeling unfit, was recommended to start walking by his doctor.

“He was told by his doctor that a good walk would do him good, and to try a walk every morning or evening just for an hour or so.

“It’s not as difficult as it may sound.” 

The charity is supplying Gordon’s walkers with vision impairment-friendly talking pedometers and odometers free of charge to track their steps, which will be collated each week.

Veteran teams based across the country will vie to tot up the most steps, adding a dose of familiar forces camaraderie and friendly competition to the effort.

The challenge is also a great opportunity for veterans to meet new faces and get to know others in their area.

Army veteran Bryce Campbell, 84, who has glaucoma and also attends Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre, is one of the veterans who will be putting their best foot forward for the challenge.

“It’s just so good to be up and doing something,” he explained.

“When I’m at the Linburn Centre I’ll wear that treadmill out trying to knock in some kilometres!

“Walking is so beneficial to your health – both physically and mentally. When you indulge in physical activity it promotes oxygen to the brain, and it’s what you need.”

Scottish War Blinded’s outreach worker team, as well as centre officers at the charity’s Linburn Centre, and Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, are supporting the veterans to get their steps up.

The charity’s rehabilitation team regularly work with any members who are lacking confidence in walking outdoors due to their sight condition, providing tailored route, cane and visibility training with expert advice.

And as the six-week challenge gets underway on May 6, it’s the ideal opportunity to build confidence walking outdoors and enjoy getting more active.   

Scottish War Blinded Director, Rebecca Barr, added: “Many of our veterans are keen sportsmen and sportswomen and have been used to leading very active lives.  

“For some of our older veterans especially, being outside and keeping active when you have a sight condition can at first feel very daunting.

“Our rehabilitation team, outreach workers and centre staff work with individuals each day to help our veterans build up confidence, get out and about and stay involved with physical and social activities in whatever capacity suits them best – anything from walking to archery, sailing, bowls and gym workouts.

“Our member Gordon has laid down the gauntlet to his fellow members throughout the country to cover 500 Miles collectively, and we’re sure the Scottish War Blinded veterans will relish the challenge. It’s brilliant to be bringing our nationwide members together in this way. Every step matters!”