Kevin Heppell was recently shortlisted for the Time2Volunteer Awards 2023, and the Environmental Volunteer Award, an event that celebrated volunteers across the Humber region with many other people.
Kevin won the Award for his category but was unable to join us at the event, so we caught up with him and some of the team at PATT Foundation's base in Preston, East Riding. 

From Battlefields to Woodlands: Kevin Heppell's Journey of Resilience

Kevin had once walked a very different path, one that led him through the harshest of terrains as a dedicated Royal Marine. His life had been filled with discipline, courage, and a sense of purpose that only military service could bestow. However, when Kevin returned to civilian life, he found himself fighting a different kind of battle, one that was far more personal.

Kevin left the Royal Marine with more than just his uniform. He carried with him chronic pain that served as a constant reminder of the sacrifices he had made. Finding a job proved to be an impossible mission. The weight of unemployment bore down on him, and in the quiet moments he started to doubt if he would succeed in finding employment.

Amid his struggles, there was a glimmer of hope when he crossed paths with Andy at the Plant a Tree Today Foundation (PATT Foundation), an organisation dedicated to environmental conservation and woodland creation. Andy extended a hand of support to Kevin. He offered him an opportunity to volunteer, recognising the untapped potential in this former serviceman.

At PATT Foundation, Kevin was welcomed with open arms, and the patience and understanding he received were like a soothing balm to his wounded soul. As he attended practical courses, engaged in hands-on training, and participated in various projects, he began to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. PATT Foundation didn't just focus on trees; they nurtured hope, healing, and a fresh start for veterans.

Kevin Heppell stands with his award and certificate, within the tree saplings at PATT Foundation, next to volunteers and staff.

Kevin became not just another volunteer, but a valued member of the PATT family. Kevin's resilience, paired with his dedication and newfound skills, allowed him to take on a pivotal role in guiding tree planting and species selection. He trained new team members in mapping and ecological knowledge, demonstrating the same leadership qualities he had once displayed in the military.

Kevin didn't stop at nurturing the environment. He became a vocal advocate for PATT's environmental initiatives, supporting veterans and uplifting the community. His tireless efforts led to the planting of over 110,000 trees and hedgerows in Hull and East Riding, enhancing biodiversity and creating beautiful green spaces that would stand the test of time.

His experience and volunteer work with PATT Foundation has helped lead him into a career with the Forestry Commission, though he still finds time to volunteer at PATT when he can.

From a struggling veteran to a dedicated forestry professional, the forest had become his new battlefield, and he was winning, one tree at a time.

In his own words, Kevin reflected on his transformation: "Being a volunteer has transformed my life in ways I couldn't have imagined. It provided me with the opportunity to rebuild my sense of purpose."

Without volunteering, I wouldn't be where I am today. You only need one motivation to push through, ignoring all other excuses and negativity.

Kevin Heppell, Volunteer at PATT Foundation

To celebrate Kevin's remarkable achievements, a colleague at PATT Foundation nominated him for the Time2Volunteer 2023’s Environmental Award, which he won. Kevin could not attend the award ceremony due to unforeseen circumstances, but HEY Smile Foundation brought the Award to him at the PATT Foundation to hear his story.

At HEY Smile Foundation and Time2Volunteer, we recognise and celebrate volunteers like Kevin for their exemplary commitment and the transformative impact they have on their own lives, as well as the communities and environments they serve. Kevin Heppell was a beacon of resilience, hope, and dedication, proving that even the most broken souls could blossom anew in the embrace of nature and a community that cares.

To see Kevin's Award and nomination bio from the Time2Volunteer Awards, please click here.

Funded and delivered by

Smile Foundation Hull CVS, community and voluntary services East Riding of Yorkshire Counsil Hull City Counsil
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