A 13-year-old boy who went into ‘complete turmoil’ after his father died four years ago said joining the air cadets had helped turn his life around.
Ryan Folan, of Salisbury Road, Tilgate, said he was making his family proud after he joined the XIX (Crawley) Squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC) nine months ago.
Now he has taken on an epic 83-mile trek in France to raise money for the Help For Heroes charity.
Speaking on Thursday (May 22), Ryan said: “I’m good in school now.
“I used to be a bit naughty and I now have a sense of what I want to do.
“It makes me feel good, I’m not only making my family proud, it’s making ATC proud as well.”
Ryan, who attends Thomas Bennett Community College and plays the drums for his squadron’s band, planned to go to university and work as a Royal Air Force physical training instructor.
He said his joining the cadets also made his grandfather, who served with the RAF, proud.
His mother Sharon Folan, 49, a logistics manager at Manor Royal, said her son went into ‘complete turmoil’ after her husband, Paul, died.
She said: “It’s like having the child that you wanted back.
“He was quite an angry child until he joined ATC.
“Teachers cannot believe he is the same child.”
Sharon was ‘very grateful’ to the ATC for helping her son gain self-respect.
She said: “He now realises he has the potential to do something and he’s calmed down.
“They’ve given him the discipline and it’s given him respect for himself.”
Ryan started a week-long 83-mile walk along the Normandy beaches, France, in aid of Help the Heroes on Saturday (May 24).
The expedition, organised by the ATC, will commemorate the 100th year since the start of the First World War.
Ryan said: “I want to give that charity to keep running so when I join the RAF it can help me as well.
“It’s very important because if we forget who helps us then we are forgetting the memory of those people and their families.”
Sharon added: “This is one of many adventures Ryan has been on with the ATC and am sure there will be many more.”