Ballymena veteran Phillip ‘Barney’ Gillespie attended a fundraising concert of his favourite charity, the Army Benevolent Fund this weekend, starring the Band of the Royal Irish Regiment.
And he looked stunned as the evening’s host, UTV’s Paul Clark MBE announced that Barney is to make a 6000m ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro this summer.
After hearing of his 5 Peaks challenge, the audience spontaneously rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
A “Barney Bucket” put out soon filled with donations from admiring show-goers.
Barney said, “It was a lovely gesture from everyone, but all I’m doing is trying to put something back into a charity which helped me when I needed it.” Barney will be starting a gruelling training regime this month to tackle the mountain in July.
Anyone wishing to support his fundraising effort should put out their own “Barney Bucket” in shops, church halls, clubs and pubs.
Barney was 16 years old when he joined The Royal Irish Regiment in 2004. He deployed on his first tour of Afghanistan in 2006, and then again on a second tour in 2008. In 2010, despite being just 22 years old, he deployed as a section commander on his third tour of the country.
Four months into the tour Barney stepped on an IED whilst out on a patrol. As a result of the explosion he lost his right leg.