87% of our veterans
are in Meaningful Occupation,Training and Education
What we do
We are a UK-based charity that supports wounded campaign soldiers, including those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our veterans are battling with both physical and mental injuries that have proved life-changing and, in many cases, shattering.
We help our veterans rebuild their futures through a unique, specially designed, ski-based development programme. Every year we provide a carefully selected group of medically discharged military personnel with seven days “skihabilitation” in the Swiss resort of Klosters, which enables them to regain their confidence and embark up a new path to fitness and wellbeing.
Once back in the UK, our veterans join a mentoring and job-finding programme that supports them into re-training and employment. Our ultimate aim is to help veterans re-integrate into society, ensuring long-term stability for themselves and their families.
How we do it
Firstly, by selecting veterans that we feel we have the current resources that will enable them to move forward with their lives. Veterans who are ready for the change or those whom we feel could benefit from our input in the form of the Ski Week, the Mentoring programme, the Pain Management programme and our Employment services.
Skiing has long been acknowledged as a fantastic sport for those with physical disabilities and visual impairments. It has transformative effects, helping to develop core strength and balance as well as motivation and confidence. And for many, there is nothing like being in the mountains to inspire a sense of freedom.
Klosters was the first resort in Switzerland to seriously embrace disabled skiing and is also home to the charity’s operational partner, PT Ski. SWV has an expert team of adaptive ski instructors who provide bespoke tuition for our wounded veterans. Each veteran is also paired with a “buddy” who offers friendship and emotional support throughout the Ski Weeks and beyond.
Alongside the annual Ski Week for veterans, SWV runs The Business Challenge, in which teams of ex-soldiers (including those who have progressed to Paralympic glory) and supporters from the business community go head-to-head. Our four-day Business Challenge takes place every January and has become a pivotal fund-raiser.
After the Ski Week, the veterans benefit from one on one support from a SWV trained mentor for one year.
Those veterans that need help with their pain management will get support from an incredible programme of integrative health pain management supported by the King Edward VII Hospital in London.
When veterans are ready to enter the employment market or continue with training or education we support them into this with our Employment services. To date 87% of our veterans are in meaningful employment, training or education from the support that SWV have given them.
A word from our Ambassador Martin Hewitt
Frankly, I’m just grateful to be here and capable of cracking on.
Martin Hewitt’s earliest childhood ambition was to join the Parachute Regiment. He became an Army cadet as a schoolboy growing up in Widnes, Cheshire, and a Territorial Army reservist during his time at university. By the age of 25, having passed out of Sandhurst, he had achieved his goal and was a Captain being mentioned in dispatches for bravery during his first tour of Afghanistan. Less than 12 months later, in July 2007, he was back in the war zone, leading an attack on an enemy bunker, when he was shot in the shoulder by heavy machine gun fire. In that split second, the dream to which Martin had always aspired abruptly unravelled.
Two medical teams working on him for ten hours at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province saved Martin’s life. But subsequent operations back in the UK were unable to save the function of his right arm, which was rendered permanently paralysed. Knowing he was heading for inevitable medical discharge, Martin’s whole focus became his search for new purpose and a new identity.
He helped establish the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team and became a pro ski racer. And although he gradually realised he would never achieve championship status, his can-do spirit earned him a successful place when he applied to join Prince Harry and three other injured servicemen on the Walking With The Wounded Expedition to the North Pole. The subsequent BBC documentary Harry’s Arctic Heroes proved a game-changer – opening the eyes of millions of viewers to the determination of those who were broken but unbowed by conflict. It was also the catalyst that persuaded Gilly Norton to set up Supporting Wounded Veterans (formerly Skiing with Heroes).
Gilly, who has no military connections but whose understanding of disability is informed by her husband Jamie’s treatment for multiple sclerosis, contacted Martin in late 2011 asking him to help her facilitate adapted skiing for wounded veterans “and to be honest, I wasn’t keen, until I met Gilly, heard her story and realised immediately how serious and capable she was,” he says.
Martin became the charity’s Ambassador and helped Gilly shape its founding principles. Mission number one was to set up a ski habilitation week which was “physically and mentally challenging enabling ex-service personnel to be absorbed and engaged within a disciplined environment.” That led directly to mission number two – the creation of a mentoring programme to guide veterans through the adjustment from discharge to civilian employment.
Today, Martin runs his own leadership training company, Fieri, established with the help of two mentors. “Having those one-to-one relationships is key. My business has doubled in size in three years and that would not have happened without me reaching out to others,” he says. “But transitioning is hard. And if it was hard for me, as an officer with the underpinning of a degree, it’s even harder for those who joined up as boy soldiers and have been blown up and lost limbs or their sight or hearing before they’ve reached their mid-20s. That is what some of our vets are coping with and we are on a massive drive to provide them with the help they need.”
Despite working full-time and having recently married, Martin, 35, continues to set himself arduous challenges. He is midway through the Adaptive Gram Slam, his quest to conquer the North Pole, South Pole and the world’s Seven Summits.
Where once he was frustrated and angry about his injury, he now describes himself as “indifferent”. “As you grow up, you become more patient, empathetic and humble. Frankly, I’m just grateful to be here and capable of cracking on.”
General Sir Nick Carter KCB CBE DSO ADC
Frank Akers-Douglas (Mr)
James Charrington (Mr)
The Right Hon Lord Hamilton of Epsom
John Kirkwood OBE (Colonel, Retired)
George Brooksbank (Mr) Executive Director
Peter Flynn (Mr)
Desmond Gilroy (Mr)
George Littler (Mr)
Rikki Jacout (Mrs)
Zizi Mason (Mrs)
Gilly Norton (Mrs) Executive Director
James Palmer-Tomkinson (Mr)
Carolyn Warrender (Mrs)
Jack Tompkins (Mr)
Who we are – the SWV team
The Junior Committee
The Junior Committee are a group of young Veterans, ski buddies, and others who are involved in the Charity. The organisation acts as a support mechanism for the principal Skiing With Heroes Committees. Their aim is to introduce the charity to young people and spread the word as to how SWH’s work impacts so positively on the lives of those who have lost their jobs and their confidence as a direct result of the sacrifices they have made for us. Ski Buddies and other volunteers are embraced by the Junior Committee and annual events are organised by the Junior Committee as awareness and fund-raisers.
Bart Borchardt (Mr) Buddy Lead, Events and Occupation
Kate Bright (Miss) Events and Business Challenge
George Brooksbank (Mr) Executive Committee Accounts, Jobs, Fundraising, Business Challenge
Rachael Dickens (Miss) Medical (Lead) /Main Event/ Social Media and Website
Frances (Tuft) Dobson (Mrs) Events (Uk)
Anna Gage (Mrs) HR
Desmond Gilroy (Mr) Executive Committee Veterans Liaison (Lead) & Main Event
Sarah Hemphill (Lady) Member without Portfolio
Rikki Jacout (Mrs) Executive Committee Mentoring Programme
John Kirkwood OBE (Colonel Rtd) Trustee & Exec Committee Chair & MOD Liaison
Christel Labes (Mrs) Events (UK and Switzerland)
Rupert Legge (The Hon) Member without Portfolio
George Littler (Mr) Governance
Susanne Lobel (Mrs) Member without Portfolio
Rupert Longsdon (Mr) Executive Committee & Main Event
Zizi Mason (Mrs) Project Management, Main Event, Pain Management and Occupation
Gilly Norton (Mrs) Executive Committee, Founder
James Palmer-Tomkinson (Mr) Executive Committee & Business Challenge
Sally Ramsay Patrick (Miss) Main Event
Polly Hipkins (Mrs) PA & Lead on Administration
Carolyn Warrender (Mrs) Executive Committee Marketing, Merchandising & Research
Carol Winkler (Mrs) Fundraising