The charity VetRun180, an organisation aiming to rehabilitate military veterans who’ve suffered physical and mental injuries due to service through adventure therapy, went on two trips around Portugal this summer in offroad vehicles.

VetRun180 was founded in 2017 by the Dedman family and a few UK veterans. “They realised that adventure therapy was a great way to get mentally and physically injured veterans back into an environment they are used to” Ben Lee, a team leader and the expedition lead on the latest Portugal trip, told The Portugal News.

Military veterans who’ve been discharged often at times struggle with readjusting to civilian life. “I think a lot of veterans find themselves lost or with no purpose after leaving the armed forces,” Ben explained. “Add the WIS (wounded, injured and sick) aspect to that and you can become very detached from civilian life, feeling things that may not be seen by your average Joe. VetRun180 gives veterans that light switch moment they realise they have purpose or a role moving forward.”

Adventure therapy is exactly what it sounds like; by going on a trip and experiencing new challenges and joys, veterans are able to revitalise their spirit and experience the thrill of overcoming obstacles again without the danger of military service.

Destinations for these trips are chosen via suggestion by a team member or a beneficiary of the charity, and then work is made working out the logistics. “Is it possible to get our vehicles there?” Ben asked rhetorically, going through the process. “If not, what other activities can we perform in that location? We do some winter sports in Sweden, which is 600km of wilderness, snowmobiling, etc. If we can get the team there, then we start planning what we want to do and how we are going to go about making that happen.”

Portugal trips

This summer, VetRun180 came to Portugal for two adventures, one in June and the other in July. “The country is amazing for what we are wanting to achieve in terms of adventure therapy and our bread and butter over land,” Ben said. “The country is very diverse, from plains to mountains, from forest to beach. There’s not been a single place I’ve stayed where I haven’t appreciated the beauty of the area. It’s a beautiful country to drive around.”

Their trip started in Faro, where they set out for Sagres and St. Vincent’s Cape. From there, they made their way up the coast, “skirting around Lisbon,” and making it to Nazaré, home of the world’s largest waves. They continued up the coast to Porto then headed inland, snaking back South through the Serra de Estrela and Serra de São Mamede, visiting places such as Torre, the highest point in continental Portugal, along the way. Passing through Elvas, they arrived back in Faro, where the journey ended. In total, it took 10 days, 3 more than the first trip of the Summer, in addition to the two training days back in the UK that prepare the veterans for the trip.

“I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the Portugal phase of the VetRun 180 4x4 expedition from the 11th to 22nd of July 2023,” Andy, a beneficiary, said in a testimony shared with us. “I was blown away by the experience and just how much growth and development I personally took away from my time with the VetRun 180 team, from start to finish. The charity is run by veterans for veterans so from the outset we were all on the same page, and it was a safe and inclusive environment to be in.”

He continued: “My favourite day was when we hit the deep sand tracks, it was when all 4 vehicles were pushed to their safe limits. I remember driving my vehicle and looking across at the other lads driving their own, their navigators sat beside them, and it was in that moment I saw the whole team come alive and beam, grin and laugh out loud with excitement and determination to keep the vehicles under control and heading in the right direction. I hadn’t felt like this for several years and after talking to the lads afterwards, they also felt the same way. It was an amazing day.”

Supporting local communities

Not only has VetRun180 been helping veterans of war, but they’ve also given a hand to the local communities they travel through. Water bottles and energy bars were distributed to fire stations during their journey in Portugal, and they also gave out clothes, toys and school supplies to the locals in Morocco, where they had gone after Portugal.

To participate in an event, the criteria are to be a UK military veteran who has suffered proven physical and/or psychological injury due to their time in service. Even amputees may drive, as VetRun180’s vehicles are specially modified to cater towards various disabilities. The program is run on donations and is completely free for participants outside of the costs of getting to the meet-up spot from their homes and back.

Their next event will be taking place in Scotland, where they’ll bring 12 beneficiaries from one coast to the other over 7 days, through some exclusive areas of the very scenic Scottish Highlands.


Star in the 2015 music video for the hit single “Headlights” by German musician, DJ and record producer Robin Schulz featuring American singer-songwriter Ilsey. Also a journalist.

Jay Bodsworth