On Remembrance Day, November 11, much-loved Fermanagh man Grant Weir started an ambitious challenge that will see him walk the equivalent of a marathon (26 miles) over an eight to 10-week period.

On July 17, 1979, life changed forever for the Weir family when at the age of 22, Grant – then a young soldier within The Ulster Defence Regiment – was part of a patrol when the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb outside the village of Rosslea.

Grant suffered a serious head injury, resulting in both physical and mental disabilities. The blast also claimed the life of Missionary Sylvia Crowe, and injured two others.

Grant battled for his life for many months afterwards and was not expected to pull through, but remarkably 41 years later he is still here, and in relatively good health.

That said, Grant requires 24-7 care, and lives with his sister and main carer, Michele Nixon, and other members of the family also contribute to his care.

A big issue for the family is mental health, and the need to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

In this regard, Grant – with the support of his family – is embarking upon an ambitious undertaking to walk the equivalent of a marathon over a two-month period.

Proceeds raised from this will be divided between two local charities: South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), and The Ely Centre, Enniskillen, which provides support to veterans and also other victims/survivors impacted by The Troubles.

Grant started from outside the gates of Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, Lisnaskea at 11.30am on Remembrance morning, accompanied by family members and others who have lost limbs as a result of terror attacks.

Explaining that Grant walked about half a mile on his first outing for the fundraiser, his niece, Becky Palmer, who accompanied him, told The Impartial Reporter: “From now on he’ll have his FitBit [health and exercise tracking device] on and we’ll be tracking every walk he goes on.

“He normally goes to the gym on a Monday and Friday, where he uses the treadmill. So that’s all going to be included in it,” added his sister and carer, Michele.

She continued: “With Grant, you can’t do something every day, because he would get tired very quickly, so we just have to do it at his pace. “We had to slow him down on Wednesday,” added Becky, with a laugh.

Michele explained that the family have been inundated with people saying they’d like to do part of the walk with Grant: “[They have included] different groups of people; local people, people from Lisbellaw.

“He’s doing a walk with members of Drumcoo some day, with proper social distancing, of course, and the Veteran’s Commissioner is coming down some time to do a bit with him.

“We have just been completely inundated with people asking can they walk with Grant. It’s unbelievable, and even the amount of money that has been raised so far, we’ve been very, very shocked by it all. May it keep going,” said Michele.

Donations can be made via Grant’s GoFundMe page, at https://tinyurl.com/y4xw6l7z.

The charities can also accept donations to their respective offices which will then be forwarded to the family. Donations should be within envelopes, marked ‘Going for a walk hi’ (Grant Weir fundraiser).

SEFF’s Director of Services, Kenny Donaldson, said: “Grant lights up a room or space wherever he is; he is renowned for his cheeky personality, and it has been our pleasure as a group to know him and his family for several years.

“We wish to pay tribute to his family – to Michele Nixon and her immediate family, whom Grant lives with, but also the wider Weir family circle, who provide wraparound family care for Grant that is second to none.

“We are pleased to work in partnership with the family and The Ely Centre on this issue, and to help promote awareness of mental health issues, but also the role provided by carers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lee McDowell, Director of Services at the Ely Centre, said: “The demand on services as a result of the ongoing pandemic is rapidly increasing. No more acutely is this felt more than in our mental health services.

“For veterans and victims alike, prolonged periods of isolation, coupled with genuine health concerns, is leading to an increasing referral rate to our mental health services.

“Efforts to raise additional funding to support these services are crucial to enable us to support as many people as we can during these uncertain times, and we all thank Grant for this endeavour.”