Wiltshire Search and Rescue Trainee Andy Hartfield, from Shrewton near Salisbury, will be pounding the pavements and roads of London on 22nd April 2018 for the gruelling 26 miles and 385 yards of the Virgin London Marathon to raise money for two charities close to his heart. This feat is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Andy only took up running in 2017!
Andy will be running the Virgin London Marathon for Wiltshire Search and Rescue and The National Autistic Society. He decided to support these great causes for different reasons, but the two organisations are more linked than you might first imagine.
Wiltshire Search and Rescue is a team of professionally trained volunteers who assist Wiltshire Police in finding missing and vulnerable people. Often these are people in mental health crisis. Many of the missing people that the team is called to support have dementia, learning difficulties or autism.
Andy joined the team as a volunteer in October 2017, quickly becoming an important member of the trainee team. The training is rigorous and serves to equip the volunteers with basic life support skills, technical searching skills and an understanding of lost person behaviour. Andy has also taken part in night navigation exercises, learning to use the equipment the team uses on the water and taking a fitness assessment, which of course he passed with flying colours!
The reasons for joining Wiltshire Search and Rescue are varied for each volunteer but for Andy, it was part of joining in in his community. He adds, “I moved to Wiltshire with my young family in 2017 and I really wanted to learn more about the place so joining a local organisation has given me the opportunity to do something great, meet lots of people and be part of a vitally important team. Wiltshire Search and Rescue volunteers are on call 24/7 and last year were directly responsible for saving two people’s lives.”
In 2018, in his mid-40s, Andy was given a positive assessment for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Asperger Syndrome). He was concerned how little he and others knew about the condition so wanted to do something to raise awareness. It seemed logical therefore to run the Virgin London Marathon for two great causes, splitting the fundraising between them.
Andy says about his diagnosis, “For me the outcome of the identification has been positive relief. The understanding that my heightened anxiety has a rational root has been life-changing. Autism is a condition and not an illness, so I will always be autistic, however, understanding the condition has helped improve my self-awareness and identify potential coping strategies for related issues I encounter on a daily basis”.
Over 99% of people have heard of autism, but only 16% of autistic people feel the public understand them. That’s why The National Autistic Society created the Too Much Information campaign #AutismTMI. The campaign looks to challenge the myths, misconceptions and stereotypes that mean that 79% of autistic people feel socially isolated.
“When I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent Shrewton Running Club in the Marathon I knew I could use my good fortune to raise money for charity. The question was which charity to represent. Fortunately, my wife Amy solved the problem by suggesting I run for both.”
Kate Vickers, Head of Supporter Fundraising at the National Autistic Society, said: “We’re so grateful to Andy for training so hard and for running for us in this year’s Virgin London Marathon.
“There are over 700,000 autistic people in the UK, including children but also adults, plus their three million family members and carers. For all of them we are a vital place to turn.
“Without inspirational fundraisers like Andy, who are happy to share their personal experiences of autism, we would not be able to achieve our goal to make a world that works for autistic people.”
To support Andy and to donate to his two causes please see below
Wiltshire Search and Rescue: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/andyhartfield
The National Autistic Society:
For press information about Wiltshire Search and Rescue, please call Sarah Wolf, PR 07747 733216 or email email@example.com
For press information about The National Autistic Society please call Genevieve Heron, PR 02079033545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org