South Woodford Torchbearer who helps air cadets nominated for Young Citizen award

A 20-year-old Olympic Torchbearer who is as happy piloting aircraft above the clouds as he is fundraising on solid ground is the latest nominee for the Recorder/Redbridge Rotary Club Young Citizen Award.

Luke Benjafield, 20, of Elmhurst Drive, South Woodford, who was the first person in Redbridge to carry the Flame on its route through the borough, is in the running for the Exchange Ilford-sponsored award.

The sales assistant, who dreams of a career with the RAF, devotes his spare time to helping young air cadets in Woodford Green gain valuable qualifications and Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

And with their help he raises money through bag-packing and collections for charities including Haven House Children’s Hospice, and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Luke was a cadet himself with the Wanstead and Woodford Squadron Air Training Corps in Finchingfield Avenue, Woodford Green, for seven years and now volunteers as a training officer.

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He said: “You get to meet people you’d never meet and you stay friends with them forever. You don’t often get to go flying, gliding and shooting. I think it’s just an amazing thing to do.”

Along with younger cadets, Luke bag packs in supermarkets once or twice a month and off his own bat, has collected at Woodford and South Woodford stations for the poppy appeal.

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Help for Heroes and the cadets have also benefited from his fundraising.

Two to three times a week he volunteers with the squadron and runs the training programme to help young people gain BTEC qualifications in aviation studies.

His time with the group has also taken him into the skies, piloting a Grob Tutor, the aircraft used to train RAF personnel and cadets get to fly in RAF Sea King helicopters, Hercules transport planes and with the Red Arrows if they are lucky.

He is still fielding questions and words of congratulations from friends, neighbours and “random people” on Facebook for his part in the Torch relay.

He said: “I thought it was brilliant, I was so overwhelmed, words can’t describe it.”

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