Civic opening for The Bridge for Heroes centre in King’s Lynn
Little Brandon Shirley is putting his weekly pocket money to good use – by helping to fund the support of serving troops and veterans who want to tackle their post-traumatic stress.
The seven-year-old has so far raised more than �200 for King's Lynn-based charity The Bridge for Heroes which was set up last year to offer emotional support for those at risk of suffering from the disorder.
On Thursday, the Clenchwarton resident got to show off his fundraising pot, which also includes donations from friends and family, to charity founder Mike Taylor at the Town Hall in King's Lynn.
The pair met at the Assembly Rooms in the historic building as part of the official opening of the charity's first dedicated town centre facility for serving troops, veterans and their families in King's Lynn.
Brandon's mum Tracy told the EDP: 'He used to get so upset when he heard one of our soldiers had been shot and injured or killed on the TV.
'Then one day he just turned around to me and said he wanted to do something to help and started saving his pocket money and asking friends and family if they had a fiver they could donate.
'When he heard about The Bridge for Heroes and what the charity wants to achieve, he decided that is where he wanted his money to go and I am very proud of him.'
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Holding the plastic pot full of coins and notes, Brandon added: 'I don't know exactly how much I have raised and I will let the charity do all the counting. It has been getting heavier but I can carry it because I am strong.'
The Bridge for Heroes centre in South Clough Lane, near St James' car park, has been open for business since the end of May, as revealed by the EDP.
Army veteran Mike Taylor said so far more than 50 serving troops and veterans at risk of suffering from post-traumatic stress have spoken to volunteers at the facility.
There have also been around 80 people enter the centre, which also operates as a charity shop and as a small museum of British military history, asking about support for loved ones.
The veteran, who served in the Gulf, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, said: 'The journey from starting the charity to the official opening of our first centre has happened so quickly.
'The people who have been coming in and needing our help have been a mixture of serving troops and veterans and were soldiers, airmen, and sailors.
'We have had many varied tales from retired service personnel who fought in the second world war, Burma, Korea, the Falklands and the Gulf.
'I've been amazed by the amount of people who have come along so far which also includes hundreds of members of public just wanting to express their support.'
He added: 'The money little Brandon has raised is fantastic and we can use that to run the centre for eight days and help about 16 serving troops or veterans.'
With the current success of the King's Lynn centre, Mr Taylor has told the EDP he wants to open up centres in Hunstanton and Cromer soon.
The charity also wants to open hotels in the two coastal towns to give serving and former troops and their families a free holiday by 2014.
The charity has also already made links with Combat Stress, which delivers dedicated treatment and support to ex-servicemen and women with post-traumatic stress disorder, and SSAFA, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.
Mr Taylor continued: 'When I returned from active operations in Bosnia I would have liked this kind of support. I was stressed and felt alone.
'I was proud to serve Queen and country but the horrors of war got to me. I also served in the first Gulf war when a good friend and comrade was killed.
'Losing comrades in battle – you just don't have time to grieve. Then you get back home and everything just carries on and you don't deal with the grief. I suppose I should have looked for some kind of bereavement counselling.'
Mr Taylor added he also wants to open a base in Lynn by 2014 which will take end-of-line stock from national chain stores and sell them in one of the charity's centres.
The opening of the centre has already been welcomed by the former head of the British Army, General Lord Richard Dannatt.
He said: 'A permanent point of contact will be very valuable to those who are looking for emotional and practical support as a consequence of military operations and service.'
West Norfolk mayor Colin Sampson, who officially opened the centre, told the EDP: 'It is a fantastic place which I can see being replicated across the country.
'The whole concept has a lot to offer and it's obvious there are people out there who really need their help.'
The slogan of the charity, which was set up last year, reads simply: 'Wounds are not always visible.'
For more information about the charity, visit www.thebridgeforheroes.org