Life after the Paras – John McDonald

The Wigley Group’s charity ambassador John McDonald discusses life after the Parachute Regiment and why it’s important for people to ‘Support Our Paras’.

The leading TV sports announcer and former paratrooper has been involved in arranging The Wigley Group Golf Open and Gala Dinner since its inception three years ago.

The event is held annually to raise money and support for the Parachute Regiment charity, Support Our Paras, which provides welfare support to injured soldiers and their families.

John has championed the work of the charity for over 30 years and knows all too well the challenges injured soldiers and their families can face when adapting back to civilian life.

John joined the Parachute Regiment in 1975 but his army career was cut short following a parachute accident in 1980, which left him with a severe neck injury and needing extensive rehabilitation treatment.

He said: “I was only 20-years-old when it happened to me and I had a young family so it was really tough. You have to grow up very quickly and you have to find a job and make a living, it can be quite harrowing at times.

“Because I’ve been injured and managed to get myself back on my feet, a lot of people thought it would be a good idea if I helped other soldiers who are injured and guided them through the steps to recovery and adapting to civilian life.

“Often these are young 18-to-24-year-old men who have their whole life ahead of them and they suddenly find that they have lost a limb or have severe life-changing injuries and you have to try to find a solution for them. That’s why Support Our Paras is so important – we need to have the resources and support available to accommodate their needs.”

Following his accident, John made a name for himself as a leading sports announcer and has reported on everything from the Ryder Cup to major boxing events around the world.

He has also worked as an announcer at Wembley Stadium, was the UK press officer for the International Boxing Organisation, and regularly features on TV channels worldwide for his work with Matchroom Sport and the Professional Darts Corporation.

With access to some of the biggest names in sport including current World Snooker Champion Stuart Bingham and boxing legend Ricky Hatton, John has used his connections to not only raise the profile of Support Our Paras, but to also boost the morale of soldiers returning from combat.

“I try to organise morale-boosting events in the hospital and these will often include visits from footballers or the darts, snooker and boxing guys. They are always happy to get involved and will help to brighten the moment,” he said.

“Spending a lengthy amount of time in hospital for anybody, even in the modern era, is extremely tough and you are probably at your lowest ebb so it is good for soldiers to be able to break away from the mundane rehabilitation work they have to go through.”

But with around 2,100 military charities operating across the UK, Support Our Paras works hard to encourage public and corporate support.

He said: “I first met Robert Wigley, managing director of The Wigley Group, at a darts event. He is a very close friend of former Worlds Darts Champion Steve Beaton who was playing at the event.

“The Wigley Group has always been a very charitable company right back to its roots and Robert wanted to continue that as a supporter of Support Our Paras. They have helped extensively over the last four years including through the organisation of their annual golf day and we are very grateful for their support.

“The thing about The Wigley Group is that they never do anything by halves. It’s not just a matter of putting on a golf day and giving us a cheque, they are very conscious about the route and direction we take and are committed to achieving the best results.”

The Wigley Group has raised more than £26,000 for Support Our Paras over the last four years and its annual golf open and gala dinner has proved a great success with friends and clients alike.

John is The Wigley Group’s charity ambassador and has been invited once again to compère the event which will take place at Staverton Park De Vere in Daventry, Northamptonshire, on Thursday, July 16. He will be joined by members of the Parachute Regiment as well as special guest Ricky Hatton.