A war hero was the guest of honour at a Sheffield pantomime which has raised thousands for a military charity.
Ben Parkinson – the most seriously injured soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan – was in the audience for one of Manor Operatic Society’s final performances of Peter Pan at Sheffield City Hall.
Collections have been taken at this year’s performances in aid of The Army Benevolent Fund – The Soldiers’ Charity, with audiences donating more than £4,000.
The society agreed the fund would be its nominated charity this year, to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.
Shows ran between December 27 and January 4, with Ben, from Doncaster, invited to Saturday’s evening performance.
He joined the cast on stage before the production began and met them backstage during the interval.
The charity is one of the organisations supporting 30-year-old Ben, from Bessacarr, with the rehabilitation from his injuries.
He lost both legs above the knee and suffered brain injuries in a bomb blast in 2006.
Ben has gone on to dedicate much of his time to raising thousands for charity to support other injured soldiers.
Sandy Warne, the fund’s South Yorkshire branch chairman, said Ben’s presence inspired the cast and the charity’s volunteers, with almost £900 collected on the night – more than double the average takings from each performance of about £400.
She said: “We got a tremendous amount – it was fabulous. I don’t know whether people knew or not Ben was there. When he met the cast before the show, everybody just broke into applause which was nice.
Sandy said the fund was grateful to the Manor Operatic Society for allowing charity volunteers to take collections during this year’s run of shows.
She said: “I can’t thank Manor Operatic enough – they are wonderful to allow us this opportunity to raise money.
“The money will stay in the region to help soldiers, veterans and their families.
“We can help people like Ben who are going to meed support for life.
“The money makes a massive difference – £4,000 can go quite a long way.”
The charity provides support to soldiers, veterans and their families in areas such as debt relief, mobility assistance, education bursaries, care home fees and respite breaks.