Help for Heroes was co-founded by Bryn Parry and his wife Emma Parry, and launched on 1 October 2007. He had served with the Royal Green Jackets for ten years before leaving to become a cartoonist. The couple visited Selly Oak hospital where they met injured servicemen and women in July 2007 and decided they needed to do something to help. Bryn and Emma Parry were both invested with the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for their services to charity on 25 November 2010.
In May 2013 Help for Heroes hit the headlines when British soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, London. Rigby had been wearing a Help for Heroes hooded jumper when he was killed, and the charity received over £600,000 in donations in the week following the attack.
In partnership with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes runs four recovery centres across the UK: Tedworth House (Tidworth), Chavasse VC House (Colchester), Naval Service Recovery Centre (Plymouth) and Phoenix House (Catterick). Each centre is a location for the Defence Recovery Capability programme. Participants in the programme receive coordinated medical, psychological and welfare support designed to help them overcome sickness and injury and ultimately return to active duty or transition to civilian life.
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery since 2008, giving the charity’s beneficiaries access to over 50 different sports every year and enabling wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports from grassroots through to performance level.
Help for Heroes works in partnership with the British Paralympic Association, UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport and relevant national governing bodies to introduce military personnel and veterans to Paralympic sport.
Help for Heroes worked in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion to support the UK team for the 2016 Invictus Games, held in Orlando, Florida. Help for Heroes was primarily responsible for helping provide the training, selection and development of the 108-strong team.
Help for Heroes grants funds to more than 60 specialist charities including The Prince’s Trust, The Poppy Factory and Combat Stress.
The charity also provides financial support to wounded personnel, veterans and families. The oldest beneficiary of the charity is Robbie Clarke, who was 96 when he received an emergency grant in 2015, to ensure he could remain living at home.
H4H keeps a "running total" on its website which is updated weekly with the total amount raised, which in April 2009 stood at over £19 million. In February 2010, H4H had raised £40 million. In June 2011, the charity announced that it had raised £100 million in under four years. As at September 2012, the figure was £200 million.
Help for Heroes stages a growing calendar of events each year, including the biennial Catterick Ball in North Yorkshire and evenings such as the Tower of London Heroes Dinner hosted by the President of Help for Heroes General Sir Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL. The charity family fun day Heroes Sunday attracted thousands of visitors in 2015.
H4H offers challenges including bike rides in Europe - the Big Battlefield Bike Ride in May 2008 was the inaugural H4H challenge where 300 cyclists biked from the HMS Victory at Portsmouth. The group then cycled through Northern France, tracing some of the region's most significant First World War and Second World War battle sites, and returned to London, which raised £1 million. There have been 5 further bike rides and they are considered one of the charity's main challenges. Supporters also take part in a wide variety of other challenges too, such as treks through Nepal and the Sahara Desert, various marathons from London to Barcelona, the chance to climb Kilimanjaro and 2 one day challenges; a New Forest Bike Ride and a 26-mile walk from Avebury to Stonehenge.
On 5 September 2008 H4H held a "Heroes Ball" to raise funds. A charity auction included an RAF donated prize to fly with the Red Arrows, the RAF's Aerobatics Team. The winning bid was £1.5 million which gave the winner, Julie Heselden, the chance for her and eight family members to fly in the display Hawk jets. The RAF said of the bid, "We know it is a special prize -- a once in a lifetime opportunity -- but we are all astounded that someone could be so generous. The RAF is genuinely delighted to have helped in raising such a fantastic amount of money for such a worthwhile charity."
The charity was a joint beneficiary of the "City Salute" held on 8 May 2008 in London, hosted by patron of the charity Jeremy Clarkson and attended by Princes William and Harry who are both members of the armed services.
On 20 September 2008, Twickenham Stadium hosted a challenge rugby union match featuring rugby players from around the world which raised £1.1m and was televised live. The match featured a "Help for Heroes XV" and an "International Select XV". Former England captains, Phil de Glanville and Lawrence Dallaglio acted as team manager and captain respectively for the H4H XV with Welsh rugby players, Ieuan Evans and Scott Gibbs filling the same roles for the International Select XV. The teams, included players from the Guinness Premiership, National Division One, the Magners League, overseas players and players from the Armed Forces.
The Help for Heroes XV won the match 29-10 in front of a crowd of 52,254 which included The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Performing at the event were the Band of the Royal Hospital School, Blake, Escala and the Royal Marines Commandos abseil team.
A second rugby match, 'The Heroes Rugby Challenge' was played on 3 December 2011 at Twickenham Stadium. The match will feature Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Leonard and Ieuan Evans managing the H4H Northern Hemisphere XV against a Southern Hemisphere team, coached by Wayne Smith and Nick Mallett and overseen by Michael Lynagh and Sean Fitzpatrick.
On 12 November 2009, a football match was held at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire, between an England XI team and a Rest of the World XI team, playing for the Heroes Cup. Both teams comprised ex-professional footballers, other sportspersons and celebrities, and footballing members of the Armed Forces. The match was broadcast live on ITV4 and BFBS, and was commentated on by Peter Dury and Joe Royle. The Rest of the World beat England 4-1.
On 15 October 2010, it was revealed that the finalists of the seventh series of The X Factor finalists would be recording a version of David Bowie's 1977 song "Heroes". The song was released in aid of H4H and the Royal British Legion. All sixteen finalists of Series 7 performed the song on 20 November 2010's results show. In the first week of its release, it went straight to number 1 and sold 313,244 copies, more than the rest of the top ten at the time combined.
British chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announced he would effectively waive VAT on the single, this will be achieved by donating the value of the VAT that will be paid on the single to the charity. He said "I very much support the Help for Heroes campaign and I support too the efforts being made by the X Factor contestants, and in recognition of that I am proposing effectively to waive VAT on this sale of these singles." and "We will do that by making a donation equivalent to the value of the VAT to the fund." He stated this in response to a question from Karen Buck.
This was held on 12 September 2010 at Twickenham Stadium in London, and featured the likes of Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow, Peter Kay, Tom Jones and Pixie Lott. The concert was shown live on BBC One and was presented by Cat Deeley.
At Easter 2011, the first Convoy for Heroes event took place at Gaydon in Warwickshire, to raise money for Help for Heroes. Organised by Land Rover enthusiasts, Convoy for Heroes took the form of a world-record breaking convoy of 348 Land Rovers, including SAS 'Pink Panther' Land Rovers, and several SAS troops themselves. A second Convoy for Heroes event was held over the Easter 2012, this time at the larger Prestwold Hall site in Leicestershire. The next event is planned for Easter 2013 again at Prestwold Hall. So far, over £25,000 has been raised by Convoy for Heroes.
The Help for Heroes 4x4 European Rally is an annual non-speed battlefield touring assembly that takes place in June. The event has raised over £1 million for the charity. Starting in England, it covers 2,000 miles and seven countries in twelve days, visiting World War I and II battlefields and museums. It is open to 45 teams of road-legal off-road vehicles, with at least two drivers per team.
Since 2009 the arms firm Edgar Brothers has produced a promotional calendar, the Hot Shots Calendar, featuring glamour models. Fifty per cent of the money made from sales of the calendar and associated products goes to various UK and US military charities including Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Help for Heroes.
The trustees are:Hadyn Parry, Chairman of Trustees - Life science entrepreneur.
Alex Scott-Barret - chartered accountant and formerly at Cazenove City Investment bank.
Sir Robert Fry KCB, CBE - Vice President at Hewlett Packard who was previously Commandant General Royal Marines and is a fellow at Oxford University.
Richard Constant MBE - Former Royal Green Jackets officer and current CEO of Gavin Anderson, a communications consulting company.
Professor Veronica Hope Hailey - Dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath.
Aroop Mozumder - Former Director General of the RAF Medical Services in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.
Thomas Wright - Former Royal Green Jackets officer.
Stephen Oxley - Senior partner of Wilsons solicitors LLP
Steve Harman - A Vice President of Shell
Alex Northcott - a non-executive director of Gorkana Group and is currently involved in the media industry.
His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett - Judge Advocate General
Tony Schofield - a Partner in the Consulting division of Deloitte.
Rod Dunn - a former Royal Marines Officer and Royal Navy Medical Officer who is now a surgeon.
The patrons are:Hero patrons
Johnson Beharry VC - a British soldier of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment who, on 18 March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour in the British and Commonwealth armed forces, for twice saving members of his unit from ambushes on 1 May and 11 June 2004 at Al-Amarah, Iraq. He sustained serious head injuries in the latter engagement.
Major Peter Norton GC - a British officer with the British Army's Royal Logistic Corps who was awarded the George Cross for his service in Iraq.
Jeremy Clarkson - British broadcaster and journalist who with his wife, Francie, is a founder patron. They have been involved with helping servicemen and women at Selly Oak Hospital and Headley Court. His effort led to the 2007 Christmas appeal in The Sunday Times supporting H4H.
General Sir Richard Dannatt - Former Head of the British Army
Richard Benyon - Politician and Conservative MP for Newbury
Air Vice Marshal John Ponsonby OBE FRAeS - former senior commander in the Royal Air Force, and current Senior Vice-President Training, AgustaWestland
Ross Kemp - a BAFTA award-winning English actor, and journalist, who rose to prominence in the role of Grant Mitchell in the BBC soap opera, EastEnders. Has spent time with British troops in Afghanistan filming Ross Kemp in Afghanistan
Sir Ian Botham - Former England Cricket Captain and current cricket commentator
Sgt Mark Sutcliffe - serving with the 2nd Battalion ("The Poachers"), The Royal Anglian Regiment. He lost his left leg in Basra in July 2006 after being hit by a Rocket-propelled grenade.
WO2 Andy Newell - serving in 16 Air Assault Brigade. In July 2006 his right arm was shattered in the bitter and prolonged fighting at Musa Qala in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Chris Holmes MBE MA - British Paralympian who, prior to the 2008 Summer Paralympics, was "Britain's most successful Paralympic swimmer", having won a total of nine golds, five silvers, and one bronze medal at the Paralympic Games. He is on the board of UK Sport, the Disability Rights Commission and was an Ambassador to the London 2012 Olympic bid.
Andy Stockton - served with 32 Regiment Royal Artillery for nearly twenty years reaching the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2). He served three tours of Northern Ireland, three tours in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He lost his arm during an ambush by the Taliban in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 11 June 2006 and was medically discharged from the Army on 23 September 2007.
Alan Brooke, 3rd Viscount Brookeborough - Northern Irish peer and landowner. He is one of the 92 hereditary peers who remain, for life, in the House of Lords. He joined the British Army in 1971, serving in the 17th/21st Lancers until being transferred to the Ulster Defence Regiment, which was to become the Royal Irish Regiment in 1992. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1993, and became Honorary Colonel of the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers in 1997.
Lady Victoria Leatham - daughter of David Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter. She was Honorary Colonel of 158th (Royal Anglian) Transport Regiment from 1996 until 2003. She was the chatelaine of Burghley House from 1982 until her retirement in 2007 and is also one of the "experts" on the BBC show, Antiques Roadshow.
James Blunt - English Acoustic/Folk rock singer-songwriter, and former officer in the Life Guards, who also served under NATO in Kosovo during the Kosovo War in 1999.
Monty Halls - a former Royal Marines officer who is now a marine biologist, television presenter, writer and diver. He has also led a number of expeditions throughout the world.
David McDonough OBE - a trustee and honorary advisor to a number of charities with close links to the Royal Hospital Chelsea where he is a member of the Executive Committee of the Chelsea pensioners' Appeal. He runs a communications consultancy in St James's in the City of Westminster.
Andy McNab DCM MM - former soldier in the Royal Green Jackets and then the SAS with whom he served in the Gulf War. He commanded the Bravo Two Zero patrol on 22 January 1991 which was given the task of destroying underground communication links in Iraq and mobile Scud launchers. Three of the eight-man patrol were killed, one escaped and four were taken prisoner by the Iraqis and tortured over a six-week period. He has since written a number of books and appeared in Andy McNab's Tour of Duty, a documentary television series about the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War in 2008. He was the most highly decorated serving soldier in the British Army when he left the SAS in 1993.
Ken Hames - a former British SAS officer who now works as a television presenter and motivational speaker.
Anneka Rice - television presenter who has worked with the forces for many years, who also helped her on the Challenge Anneka television series a number of times.
Major Phil Packer - was injured in a rocket attack in Basra on 18 February 2008. He lost the use of his legs and was told he would never walk again. However, he completed the Flora London Marathon in April 2008, walking 2 miles a day over a 2-week period.
Peta Todd - is a glamour model featuring in page from the Sun's page 3 to FHM's 2008 Calendar. She has been a supporter from the start and was involved in the 2008 H4H Big Battlefield Bike Ride. She will be running the 2010 London Marathon for H4H.
Lydia Cross - In 2003, when she was two years old, Lydia contracted meningitis with septicaemia. After being placed on life support and suffering multi organ failure she pulled through. But, after countless operations, she had to have below knee double amputations. Lydia, now 9, never lets her disability stop her doing what she wants. She wanted to raise money for Help For Heroes and decided all on her own to do a sponsored swim - it should have been 20 Lengths but then on the day with Matt Kingston and family and friends cheering her on she swam 64 Lengths in 64 minutes (1 mile) raising just over £13,500. Lydia and her family organised a 1-mile run/walk in Braunton to raise money for H4H, the sponsorship of which went towards Matt and Ben’s 2010 marathon total. Ben and Mark Ormrod both came to support Lydia on her 1-mile run along with hundreds of people. In August Lydia and the rest of her family will climb Pen y Fan to continue their H4H fundraising.
Ben McBean – On 28 February 2008, Ben was on foot patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on a land mine. As a result, he lost his left arm and his right leg was amputated above the knee. A little over a year after being wounded, Ben took part in the 2009 London Marathon and raised money for H4H. Despite being in unbearable pain from his prosthetic, Ben completed the marathon in 6 hours and 15 minutes. Since then, he has completed many challenges, including trekking to Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Challenge and running the 2010 London Marathon, beating his time from the previous year.
Help for Heroes was awarded the Support to the Armed Forces award during the 2008 Sun Military Awards, "For a civilian, a civil servant, a contractor or just an ordinary member of the public, who has provided invaluable help to the Armed Forces".
In August 2012 a group of wounded ex-servicemen, featured in a report for BBC's Newsnight, criticised Help for Heroes for its relationship to the Ministry of Defence. More specifically the criticism was levelled because of the charity's decision to use funds to subsidise expensive MOD buildings rather than for soldiers' everyday care. The charity has agreed to spend £153 million on constructing and running five regional MOD Personnel Recovery Centres, primarily for serving military personnel, which discharged servicemen can only use on a case-by-case basis. A subsequent investigation by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit into the original Newsnight report upheld the charity's complaint about the programme and concluded that "there was no evidence to back Newsnight's claim about Help for Heroes".