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Lorry pull organised by Elstow HGV driver Gary Halstead raises more than 5,000 GBP for UK soldiers

Gary, a lorry driver with Ampthill-based News Transport, a licensee with the Fortec Distribution Network, organised the event in memory of pub landlord Neil Rodgers.

With the help of News Transport, which loaned a 44-tonne articulated Fortec liveried lorry, Gary rallied 40 of Neil’s regular customers to take part. Twenty-seven of them were directly involved in pulling the lorry for a distance of 100 metres, while the rest were involved in helping to put the event together and supporting the participants on the day.

Gary, a 33-year-old father-of-one, came up with the idea after a conversation with Neil before Christmas.

The pair – both ex service men – talked about organising a fundraising event in aid of Help For Heroes, which helps service men and women injured in conflict.

But Neil, landlord of The Swan pub, in High Street, died suddenly, shortly after the conversation took place. Upon hearing of the death of his friend Gary decided to press ahead with the event in his memory, with the help of Neil’s wife Sue.

Gary, who lives with wife Deb and daughter Savannah, said: "To be honest the idea of the lorry-pull started with a conversation over a few pints with Neil. To learn of his death so shortly after came like a bolt out of the blue. I knew then that I had to press ahead with the event quickly, not only for such an excellent cause but in memory of such a great man."

He added: "I’d known Neil for about three years. And because he was so popular I had no trouble finding volunteers willing to help out, or people willing to donate.

"As well as all the guys in the pub, I’ve had a lot of support from friends, family and people I work with at News Transport.

"News Transport also loaned us the lorry so I would like to say a big thank you to Director Ken Footitt and Managing Director David Footitt as without their support the event would not have been possible."

David added: "Congratulations to Gary on his efforts for Help For Heroes. He is an extremely popular member of the team here at News Transport and his colleagues were only too pleased to support him in his quest in aid of such a worthy cause."

A family business, News Transport was founded in 1973 by Ken and David Footitt’s parents Dennis and Barbara.

In its early days the company was made up solely of the couple who serviced the thriving motoring industry in Bedfordshire.

Over the past three decades the company has continued to expand, moving premises four times to accommodate growth.

Thirteen years ago News Transport joined the Fortec Pallet Distribution Network. Since then staff numbers have grown from 15 to 20 and turnover has quadrupled and is now a seven-figure sum.

News Transport has 300 clients all based within the Luton area and also in parts of Milton Keynes. The number of pallets put into the Fortec Pallet Distribution Network each night has grown from a handful to an average of 70 to 80.

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