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Injured solider Phil Packer returns to former Mottingham school on fundraising challenge

PUBLISHED: 13:34 27 December 2012

Phil Packer with Eltham College pupils

Phil Packer with Eltham College pupils

Archant

To row the Channel, skydive with the Red Devils and complete the London Marathon just a year after being told you would never walk again could be considered a miracle.

Phil PackerPhil Packer

But for Petts Wood’s Phil Packer, a former army major, the amazing feats were far from divine and have pushed him to breaking point in a bid to raise funds for the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT).

Suffering a spinal cord injury while on duty in Iraq back in 2008, Phil found his self-worth at rock bottom before founding BRIT and discovering a new purpose.

His latest challenge, a 2,012 mile walk across Britain, brought him back to former school Eltham College, in Mottingham, recently where he took time to reflect on his latest efforts.

He said: “The support I’ve received has been quite humbling, but now I’m coming towards the end of the challenge I’m beginning to feel tired.

Phil walks with Eltham College students when he returned to his old school recentlyPhil walks with Eltham College students when he returned to his old school recently

“I have learned a lot about my body during this walk and now know that my physical limit is six to seven miles each day.

“I reflect quite a bit and I consider myself to be very lucky.”

His early life in Bromley was tumultuous and an abusive home life led Phil to act out at school, where he admits he wasn’t “a model student”.

It was during his time at Eltham College that teachers began to understand the issues he faced at home and he says it now means a lot to hear teachers say they are proud of his achievements.

He said: “Going back I was a bit embarrassed by my behaviour as a student. I remembered when the teachers realised what was going on at home and they were just fantastic.

“Old memories certainly came flooding back as I walked round the corridors, but that school managed to turn negative childhood feelings into positive ones.”

He is aiming to raise £15 million for a ‘‘centre of inspiration’’ to be built and used by various children’s charities. The extent of his injuries mean the six or seven miles he trekked each day since last January as part of the challenge were the equivalent of a marathon.

He never sought donations from individuals instead he has targeted big businesses to help him achieve his monetary goals.

He said: “This is the time to say to businesses that we need them now. There are 55 charities that want to build the centre, but can’t afford it.

“I have met so many youngsters who need support this year and a high point during my challenge has been the willingness of these kids to share their stories with me.”

Having finally crossed the finish line on December 18 at Canary Wharf, the experience has been transforming for the 40-year-old who he says owes his achievements to the surgeons who operated on his injuries. Phil continued to defy doctors for two-and-a-half years by ditching his wheelchair and eventually reaching the stage he is at now.

Though his efforts have been worthy, they have at points left him “low” and he is now looking forward to relaxing over the New Year.

“I have had no room for anyone during this challenge and didn’t get to see my family when I was in Bromley last week.

“It has meant that I missed so much in the past year, so I need to make sure I thank my friends and family for putting up with me and being so supportive.”

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