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MP and former paratroopers are guest speakers at inaugural Wigley Support Fund ball

Afghanistan veterans Johnny Mercer MP, double-gold medal winning Paralympian Jaco van Gass and paratrooper-turned-explorer Levison Wood will be the guest speakers at the inaugural Wigley Support Fund Ball.

The event will take place at the Coventry Building Society Arena in Coventry on October 7 in aid of Support our Paras, the official charity of the Parachute Regiment.

The Wigley Support Fund was established by Midlands-based property and investment firm The Wigley Group to help veterans make their transition from military to civilian life by supporting their physical and mental rehabilitation to funding further education and skills training.

Since 2013, more than £100,000 has been donated through Support our Paras and while October’s ball is the WSF’s first major fundraising event since 2019 as a result of the pandemic, funds have continued to support veterans throughout that time.

Latest figures show that 7,600 have left the UK Armed Forces in the past year.

Mr Mercer, a former soldier who was elected to Parliament in 2015 and went on to be Veterans’ Minister, will be part of a panel that will discuss the challenges faced by ex-service men and women against the backdrop of the recent troubled withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

The panel will also include former paratroopers Jaco van Gass, a brand ambassador for The Wigley Group who won three medals at this summer’s Paralympics in Tokyo after losing a limb while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, and Levison Wood, who is now a world-renowned explorer, writer, photographer and documentary maker, as well as serving as a reservist.

The host for the evening will be former British sprinter Derek Redmond, who held the British 400m record and won gold medals in the 4x400m relay at the World and European Championships.

Robert Wigley, chairman of the Wigley Support Fund, said: “Events of the past few weeks out in Afghanistan have put into sharp focus the reasons why we raise money for Support our Paras.

“Every day our armed forces put themselves in harm’s way and sadly it’s inevitable that some of those who have been part of events in Afghanistan in recent weeks will need to access the services and support that the Wigley Support Fund helps to provide.

“We’ve seen at first-hand the positive effect this support can have whether it’s providing ex-service men and women with formal education, upskilling or the tools to do their job, and providing work experience, right through to how our sponsorship of Jaco van Gass has helped him overcome his life-changing injuries to compete at the Paralympic Games where he won two golds and a bronze.

“This is our first major fundraising event for some time so while our intention is for our guests to have a good time, they will also have the opportunity to listen to the challenges that are faced by the thousands of people who leave the armed forces every year directly from three veterans who have been through that experience.”

The ball will include an auction and among the lots will include a three-night stay in a four-star hotel in the south of France with grandstand seats for the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix, and a night in luxury hotel The Rubens, which overlooks Buckingham Palace, to include a picnic in St James’s Park.

There will also be entertainment by live band The Young Vinyls.

Tables for up to 10 people are available to purchase here.