The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) was founded by Phil Packer who is our Non-Paid Chief Executive.
In addition to his full-time role with BRIT, Phil is also an Ambassador and Patron to numerous charities, and a campaigner and activist for inclusion, mental health, and wellbeing. His work has been recognised with many awards in the education, charity, and sport sectors, including the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award and Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year.
Phil has conducted well over 850 visits to universities, colleges, Students' Unions, specialist colleges, charities, and communities, to promote positive mental health, wellbeing, and fitness. As our Non-Paid Chief Executive, Phil leads on the delivery of the annual BRIT Challenge, has implemented BRIT Regional Steering Groups in the eight regions of England, and Scotland and Wales, maintains relationships with Education and Sport Governing Bodies and Charities, and continues to forge relationships with the majority of universities, colleges, specialist colleges, and Students' Unions, in the UK.
In 2008, Phil sustained injuries to his heart, ribs and catastrophic damage to his spinal cord. To put his extraordinary journey since then into context, we asked Dr Carol Smyth at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore to provide a professional and medical explanation of Phil's physical and mental health challenges.
"Understanding the impact Phil’s spinal cord injury has had on him physically and mentally is vital in order to fully appreciate the strength of his leadership, commitment to young adult mental health and support to charities, for over fifteen years."
"He sustained life-changing, catastrophic injuries whilst serving with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces which left him paralysed from the waist down, resulting in symptoms of depression and PTSD which he tried to suppress. He underwent complex surgery and extensive rehabilitation at the LSCIC, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and subsequently learnt to walk again."
"In that same year, Phil raised over £1.3 million for the wounded by rowing the channel, completing the London Marathon in 14 days and hauling himself up El Capitan; completing 3,250 pull-ups in 4 days."
"A mile for someone with a spinal cord injury is the equivalent of three to four miles for an able-bodied person. In 2012, Phil walked the equivalent of 310 marathon distances in 331 days; an unprecedented and extraordinary accomplishment. These challenges not only gave him purpose; they inspired millions."
"In 2016, Phil had another serious setback which again severely affected him, forcing him to step back from his charity work for two to three years. He developed internal complications that prevented him from travelling; forcing him to live in isolation for extended periods, and his PTSD worsened. However, as a patient of our services he received the appropriate medical and psychological support, which allowed his quality of life to improve, enabling him to travel again and regain a sense of normality. He battled with weight and muscle loss to train for over a year in preparation for a 2020 mile round-the-UK sea row, to raise funds for young adult mental health, before being advised he was risking further damage to his spinal cord."
"Not giving up, he adapted the event and invited every university and college to enter teams to row 2,020 miles to improve student mental health and fitness and raise vital funds for young adult mental health. Bearing in mind he endures two hourly medical procedures daily, has limited mobility and was severely hampered physically, Phil toured the UK over a five month period and conducted over 130 university and college visits; all whilst towing an Ocean Row Boat, to share the story in person, with young adults."
"Whilst he is known for undergoing extreme challenges, he continues to be affected by his spinal cord injury. He walks with a stick, has a loss of function of his bladder, bowels and temperature regulation and is prone to neuropathic pain."
"Phil adopts a much understated approach as a leader and fundraiser throughout the charity, education, sport and health sectors. His achievements, from physical charity challenges to successfully delivering awareness raising campaigns, events and fundraising collaborations, are awe inspiring. His sincerity, valued experience, resilience and clear determination are why so many British Sporting Icons, inspirational figures, institutions and donors continue to support his vision, campaign and UK-wide events."
Dr Carol Smyth
Specialist Counselling Psychologist
London Spinal Cord Injury Centre
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust