A Royal Engineer has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his charity work with ‘Toe in the Water.’
WO2 Lloyd Hamilton (37) is one of the founding members of Toe in the Water, a tri-service charity that uses competitive sailing to re-inspire injured servicemen and women to see beyond their injuries.
A member of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Group Royal Engineers, he said “I was absolutely shocked when my Commanding Officer phoned me to tell me the news. I just never expected it.”
Founded in 2008, Toe in the Water works hand in hand with the clinical teams at Headley Court who identify servicemen and women who would benefit from competing in a race with Toe in the Water.
“The servicemen and women join us for a few days before the race to get to know one another and learn about the yacht and their role. They are then straight into the competition,” explained WO2 Hamilton.
WO2 Hamilton, physiotherapist Holly King and Tanya Brookfield first discussed the idea for the charity in 2008. “We decided to trial it at the 2008 Cowes week. It was a great success and it grew from there.”
Many of the servicemen may never have sailed before. It offers a challenge and gives them an opportunity to see what can be achieved. WO2 Hamilton sums it up by saying: “Toe in the Water re-inspires, re-engages and re-integrates.
"It gives servicemen and women the opportunity to test themselves; it helps to give them back their motivation when they see what they can achieve. We work as a team, there are no passengers, everyone has a job to do.”
There is no preferential treatment on board the yacht, nor is there any special treatment during the race. The crew are treated the same as their competitors.
The charity enters eight competitions a year during the racing season which runs from April – October. The next race will be during Plymouth Race Week, from the 5 -11 July.
'Realise their own capabilities'
“Some of the guys have really enjoyed their time at sea and got the sailing bug, some are now training in the hope of becoming a member of the GB Paralympics team. For others it has made them realise what they are capable of doing, it's helped them to regain their confidence and motivation and some have gone on to run marathons or climb Mount Everest,” said WO2 Hamilton.
WO2 Hamilton who has always had a passion for sailing, having first set sail on the water at just 11 years old is married to Liz, herself an accomplished yachtswoman. He continued: “The unfamiliarity of sailing and the return to a team environment means that the guys have little time to think what they are actually achieving; goals that perhaps prior to the event they didn’t think they would be able to do.
“We are simply helping the injured servicemen to realise their own capabilities and be part of a team, often for the first time since their injury.
“Sailing remains one of the few sports where the injured servicemen and women can compete against their contemporaries on a level playing field. Seeing the difference the charity makes to the men and women, many of whom I have served with, never fails to move me and it is this which drives me and the team of volunteers to continue to carry out the work we do.”
The charity is hugely dependant on donations. If you are an experienced racer and would like information about volunteering contact email@example.com. For further information about the charity and about how you can make a donation visit www.toeinthewater.org