How Scotty's Little Soldiers helps King's Lynn school boy remember his step dad as a hero
PUBLISHED: 07:57 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:45 01 November 2017
Scotty's Little Soldiers has grown from one woman's grief to support more than 300 children of fallen service men and women. This week, we're telling some of their stories, as the charity appeals for help to do even more.
King’s Lynn school boy Sam Ruddlesdin had just turned six years old when his stepdad Richard Hannis was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Thanks to children’s armed forces charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, Sam can remember his stepdad for the hero he was.
Sam’s mum Sarah told how her fiancé, SAC Richard Hannis, was tragically taken from her and her son, and how a charity has allowed them to remember who he was and helped them create new happy memories.
Sarah said: “Rich and I were friends before we got together, we were engaged and like everything, getting married was on the list to do. We were together for four years before he died, and to Sam he was his hero.
“Rich knew Sam from the age of one and he brought him up as his own from 18 months old. We were planning our lives together, Rich moved from his base in Marham to Honington so that we could start a family.”
The 33-year-old armourer had served in the RAF for seven years and completed two tours of Afghanistan. Sarah added: “You just have to live every day as you never know what’s going to happen. Rich left that morning, said bye, love you smelly child and he didn’t come home.”
Sarah, who teaches at Greyfriars Primary School, was at work when Richard was killed.
“The police came to find me,” she said. “They told me what had happened and wanted me to go to the hospital to identify him. I just went in to shock, my mum later told me we had the most bizarre conversation.
“All I could think about was Sam. I left him at school for as long as I could while I was at the hospital. That afternoon, I walked him home from school and told him what had happened. With the way that Sam is, I had to be quite blunt and direct and tell him the truth. It was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have.
“Sam kept saying ‘but we were going to play a game, we can play it in hospital’, but I had to explain that Rich wasn’t in hospital, he was in the bit where people don’t get better.
“He understood, but for around six to eight months he kept asking questions. He’d be playing with his toy cars and would ask me to show him how it happened.”
Richard died on 17th July 2009. Sarah added: “It was the start of the summer holidays, so Sam and I had six weeks off school to sort our heads out and come to terms with what had happened.
“Sam’s primary school was great and really supportive. His secondary school has also been brilliant.”
Sam, who is now 14 years old, became a member of Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2011. Sarah said: “I got in touch with Nikki after a friend of mine asked to borrow some uniform of Rich’s for fundraising activity.
“I contacted her about a picture that had appeared in the paper quoting the uniform as Lee Scott’s. We got talking and she told me all about Scotty’s. At first, I didn’t think Sam would qualify for the support as Rich wasn’t killed in action and he wasn’t a blood relative. But she explained that he did qualify and did matter.
“What Sam gets from Scotty’s is his big family back, he misses Rich and the blue suits. He’s had so many amazing experiences due to Scotty’s, that have given him his confidence back. I really can’t imagine what he would be like without it. It’s thanks to Scotty’s that Sam and I are able to remember Rich as he was – our hero.”
How you can help
From one young woman’s determination to see her two young children smile again, Scotty’s Little Soldiers has grown to support more than 150 families who have lost a parent in the armed services.
As well as the children of personnel killed in action, it also provides a lifeline to those who have lost a parent from accident or illness.
There are a number of ways you can help them do it:
• Join the Business Heroes Club – request a free Scotty’s Business Heroes pack by emailing email@example.com or download here.
• Get Involved – volunteer or fundraise for Scotty’s Little Soldiers, find out more here.
• Take part in Bobble Hat Day! – Wear your favourite bobble hat on 8th December and donate by texting BHAT17 £2 to 70070. Find out more here.
To make a donations to Scotty’s Little Soldiers
• Text SLSC17 £2 £4 or £5 to 70070
• Click here
• Or call 08000 928571.
Scotty’s shopping list
Here’s how your money can help the children of our fallen heroes:
£20 A family meal voucher for Pizza Hut
£25 An individually-selected birthday present
£60 Three anniversary vouchers, sent to members at the time of their parent’s death to remind them Scotty’s is thinking of them
£100 Ten driving lessons for a 17-year-old member
£150 One Scotty member’s annual allowance which can cover the cost of music lessons, sports clubs or school trips
£500 A family go on a break to a Scotty Lodge, including their travel expenses
£1,500 A higher-education grant for those about to head off to university
£5,000 A year’s worth of family remembrance meal vouchers for 250 children
£10,000 Amazing Christmas presents for 66 members, or 20 family holidays
£50,000 An amazing and magical Christmas party available for all Scotty members to attend
£105,000 A brand new Scotty holiday lodge to be used by children of our fallen heroes