New lease of life for soldier Sean

For wounded ex-soldier Sean Donlan, volunteering has opened up a wealth of new experiences he never imagined.
Sean with Rosie at Help for HeroesSean with Rosie at Help for Heroes
Sean with Rosie at Help for Heroes

An avid Leeds Rhinos fan, the 27-year-old from Gomersal was thrilled when a volunteering opportunity came up to work with the club’s foundation.

He said: “I just do not want to be sat at home. Volunteering means I can get out and makes me feel much more relaxed. I have supported Leeds Rhinos for years and it’s great to be able to work for them and in my local community.”

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Sean, survived horrific injuries after a grenade attack in Afghanistan. He joined the Army at the age of 16 and trained as a vehicle mechanic. He was serving with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment in Afghanistan when, in April 2011, he was caught up in an explosion. At the time, he had been living in a vehicle and had just got out to make a phone call. when a rocket propelled grenade came out of nowhere.

Almost four weeks later, Sean woke up in hospital, surrounded by his family who had been told it was unlikely he would survive his severe brain injuries. He did – but was left almost paralysed down one side, deaf in his left ear and unable to speak. Part of his skull was removed to relieve his symptoms and he spent months in hospital undergoing countless operations.

Intensive physio and speech therapy has resulted in vast improvements in Sean’s capabilities – and he has chosen volunteering as a way to help others as well as create new

opportunities for himself.

Sean is a regular visitor to the Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre at Catterick. While using the centre, Sean met Rosie O’Connell, volunteering project manager for WWV, one of several outside agencies based in the centre’s support hub and grant-funded by Help for Heroes.

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Rosie found him a position to volunteer with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation.

Bob Bowman, Director of Operations for the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said: “It is a great honour to welcome Sean into the Leeds Rhinos Foundation family. In life the word hero is too easily used but when I met Sean and heard his story I was truly inspired, humbled, and realised I was listening to a true hero.”