WWII veteran 'overwhelmed' as fellow veterans with sight loss across Scotland smash 500 Miles walking challenge

Press Release | 08/07/2019

A 97-year-old World War Two veteran with sight loss says he’s “overwhelmed” by the response to Scottish War Blinded’s 500 Miles Challenge as veterans smashed their walking target.

RAF veteran Gordon Mills, of Edinburgh, threw down the gauntlet to his fellow veterans with sight loss across Scotland to get marching and collectively clock up 1,117,500 steps over a six-week period – equating to 500 miles.

Promoting health and fitness through walking and proving a vision impairment is no barrier to keeping active at any age, 109 Scottish War Blinded veterans signed up to the challenge.

Gordon was amazed to learn that the grand total amounted to an enormous 9,423 miles.

Scottish War Blinded provided the veterans with talking pedometers to track their steps for the challenge as they made efforts to up their daily steps.

Participants were supported throughout by staff from the charity’s Hawkhead Centre in Paisley and Linburn Centre in West Lothian, as well as its team of Outreach Workers across Scotland.

 “I am overwhelmed with everyone’s response to the challenge,” said Gordon.

“I really never expected so many members to sign up. I am really proud of my fellow veterans’ efforts and I hope that they keep up with their walking.

“The challenge has made me want to walk even more than I did before. I’m feeling healthier and can walk faster.”

And spurred on by the challenge, many of the veterans now plan to keep up the exercise, with Scottish War Blinded’s Outreach Workers continuing to facilitate their walking groups that were born out of the challenge.

Army veteran Bill Quinney, 80, of Livingston, said: “I have really enjoyed taking part. It’s made me realise that I can walk further than I thought. I even worked out that if I continue to walk as much as I have been every day, I will walk 500 miles in three years, which is what I plan on doing!”

Army veteran John Baptie, 71, of Inverness, added: “Since starting the challenge I’m definitely fitter. I feel a hundred times better.  

“It’s a team effort – even if veterans just wanted to do two or three steps extra, it all counts.”

Rebecca Barr, Director of Scottish War Blinded, commented: “Our Scotland wide community of veterans have put in an almighty effort to smash Gordon’s 500-mile target and we are delighted the challenge has been a great success.

“Obviously, we have far surpassed our original target of 500 miles and the total distance walked is far greater than we could ever have anticipated. This is largely down to the excellent response we received from our veterans and their determined efforts to increase their daily steps.

“It’s great to hear many say they are feeling the benefits of walking more, so much so that we are very happy to carry on the members’ walking groups across the country that we have facilitated for them during the challenge.”

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to ex-servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

For more information about the support offered to veterans with sight loss in the area and to refer a veteran to the charity, call 0800 035 6409 or get in touch online at www.scottishwarblinded.org.