Philip Michael 'Phil' Packer, MBE (born 1972) is a former British Provost Officer who suffered severe spinal cord injuries whilst on active service in Iraq in February 2008. Despite being told at the time that he would never walk again, he has since undertaken a number of physical challenges for charity, including walking the London Marathon in 2009 over 14 days. His fundraising efforts have raised well over a million pounds, gaining national media attention and several national awards. Packer has since founded the British Inspiration Trust, which aims to support young people facing adversity.
Packer was a major with 115 Provost Company, a unit of the Royal Military Police and was injured while on operational duty in Basra on 19 February 2008. He suffered a bruised heart, broken ribs, and catastrophic spinal injuries. Doctors who treated him at the time told him he would never walk again, and although there has since been a slight improvement in his condition, his thighs and upper legs remain completely paralyzed.
Despite his injuries, Packer found himself inspired during his treatment and convalescence by those around him whom he felt were less fortunate than himself. First at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in London, and then at the Headley Court military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, he met other soldiers recovering from severe injuries sustained on the battlefield. "If you see a 19-year-old who has had a triple amputation and is trying to make the most of it", he said in May 2009, while competing in his first London Marathon, "I can’t imagine what that is like. I just want to do this for him."
Packer, a self-confessed "adrenaline junkie", began attempting gruelling physical challenges both to raise money, and to help himself recuperate psychologically from his injuries.[dead link]
His three main challenges in 2009 were completed within six months. He rowed the English Channel with Al Humphreys on 14 February, less than a year after his injury. Next he entered the 2009 London Marathon. Because of his ongoing therapy—he had only been walking on crutches for a month—his doctors recommended that he walk no more than two miles a day, and consequently it took him thirteen days to complete the course, then the longest time in the event's history (surpassed by fundraiser Lloyd Scott in 2011 who took 26 days to complete the Marathon). Hundreds of people turned out to cheer as he reached the finish line, and he was presented with his finisher's medal by Sir Steve Redgrave. By the end of the marathon he had raised £637,000 for Help for Heroes, a charity dedicated to disabled ex-servicemen.
The same year with support from an expert climbing team including Andrew Kirkpatrick, Packer scaled El Capitan, the granite cliff in Yosemite National Park. This involved over 4,200 pull-ups and sleeping suspended on the side of the mountain for 3 days. In total he raised over £1.3 million for Help for Heroes in 2009.
He is a Vice-President of The Children's Trust, a UK charity for children with brain injury.
In 2010 Packer and BBC presenter Kate Silverton took part in the National Three Peaks Challenge for Sport Relief, climbing the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in 72 hours. They were supported by Al Humphreys, Andy Kirkpatrick and Martyn Bird, and joined on Snowdon by Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Clive Woodward. The challenge was the focus of the BBC documentary A Major Mountain to Climb.
He also took part in the 2010 London Marathon, this time walking each mile with a young person from a different charity, raising money and awareness for 26 charities. He completed the marathon in his new target time of 26 hours.
British Inspiration Trust
In 2010 Phil Packer founded the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT), which aims to "deliver inspiration to young people facing adversity (who are physically or mentally disabled, deprived, have medical conditions, are injured or wounded)". BRIT is intended to be "a charity for charities", and have inspirational figures serving as BRIT Mentors, giving 24 hours each year to young people. In the long term the aim is to create a Centre of Inspirational Excellence to support charities. The Trust was launched with an event at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister David Cameron. It has received the backing of numerous celebrities, including Ranulph Fiennes, Richard Branson and paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson.
BRIT 2012 Challenge
The BRIT 2012 Challenge was created to raise awareness of BRIT in order to build the Centre of Inspirational Excellence, where charities can send young people to regain their self-worth, self-belief and self-confidence. Phil is currently pursuing his goal of walking 2,012 miles throughout 2012 across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. He is also calling for schools, colleges, universities, and the public to participate in the challenge, either in teams or as individuals. Phil Packer launched the BRIT 2012 Challenge in January 2012 at Chichester College, England. The challenge is scheduled to conclude in December 2012 in London.
Recognition and awards
In 2009, he won the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, was "Fundraiser of the Year" at the Pride of Britain Awards, was named "Most intrepid man" by The Observer newspaper, and received the Athlete of the Year Badge from The Scout Association.
Packer was made appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2010 for his fundraising work, and also received the Jane Tomlinson Inspiration Award from Runner's World. He also serves as a patron or ambassador to seventeen charities, including The Prince's Trust, the NSPCC, Cardiac Risk in the Young, Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund, the Football Foundation, Combat Stress, the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity, the National Autistic Society, and the British Legion.
- "Soldier Phil Packer gets ready for his biggest battle in London Marathon", Gareth A Davies, Daily Telegraph, 17 March 2009
- "Courage of crippled major Phil Packer raising £1m for Heroes", Kate Jackson, The Sun, 4 May 2009
- "Marathon miracle", GMTV, 11 Jun 2009
- "How 2012 has given an Iraq casualty hope for the future", Neil Wilson, Daily Mail, 16 October 2008
- "Paraplegic soldier rows Channel", BBC News, 14 February 2009
- "Major Phil Packer: 'I don't want to let other people down'", Phil Reay-Smith, Daily Telegraph, 11 June 2009
- "Paraplegic Marathoner Still Has Mountain To Climb", National Public Radio, 6 June 2009
- "London marathon walker Major Phil Packer has over eight miles to go", The Times, 7 May 2009
- British Inspiration Trust website
- "Major Phil Packer finishes marathon", Sara Dixon, The Times, 9 May 2009
- Phil Packer Home, Official website
- "Disabled Major Phil Packer crosses London Marathon finish line two weeks after starting", Sharon Van Geuns, Daily Mirror, 10 May 2009
- "London Marathon major Phil Packer gets over line in 26 hours", Metro, 27 April 2010
- "Iraq War veteran Phil Packer and BBC newsreader Kate Silverton complete Three Peaks Challenge", Daily Telegraph, 10 March 2010
- Major Phil Packer: 'I don't want to let other people down', Phil Reay-Smith, Daily Telegraph, 11 June 2009
- Phil Packer to walk the Virgin London Marathon in 26 hours for 26 charities (press release), philpacker.com
- Stars Back Phil Packer's British Inspiration Trust, Tim Saunders, looktothestars.org, 13 December 2010
- Inspirational Malmesbury teen chosen for Iraq hero's new inspiration charity, Tina Robins, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 2 December 2010
- "Join the BRIT 2012 Challenge", British Inspiration Trust website
- "Chichester College is proud to be supporting the British Inspiration Trust", Chichester College news
- "Fundraiser Of The Year - Major Phil Packer", Pride of Britain Award Winners 2009
- "Most intrepid man: Major Phil Packer", Tom Lamont, The Observer, 15 November 2009
- Scout's honour for Britain's best, The Scout Association, 31 July 2009
- The London Gazette: . 12 June 2010. Retrieved 05 July 2013.
- Dog unit army major among Queen's honours, BBC News Online, 12 June 2010
- Heroes Of Running 2010: The Winners - The Inspiration: Major Phil Packer, Runner's World, 23 April 2010