Meet the Scotty Member running to reach her Olympic dreams
16-year-old Sofia Chacksfield was just three when her dad, SSgt Christopher Chacksfield, who had completed tours of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with the Royal Corps of Signals, died from head injuries sustained in an unprovoked attack. In the years since, Sofia has devoted much of her time to athletics and become one of the most renowned young athletes of her age group. She is currently ranked the UK (U17) number one in the 400 metres and was second in the 300m at the UK under-17's National Indoor Athletics Championships. One day, she hopes to represent UK athletics in the Olympic games – a goal she’s well on her way to achieving.
Sofia’s talent and dedication is incredible, and Scotty’s Little Soldiers is proud to have supported her on her journey.
Athletics runs in Sofia’s family. Her grandad was a middle-distance runner, her mum was a sprinter growing up, and her dad was a trained PTI in the Armed Forces.
“I started doing cross-country when I was around six,” says Sofia. “I’ve tried out loads of different sports since then, but I always came back to athletics.”
Her mum, Adele, adds: “She has this natural ability and it’s just effortless for her. She won the county championship a couple of weeks ago in the 300 metres and broke the championship record, which has been in place since 2005.”
Sofia may have an abundance of natural ability, but reaching such impressive heights at 16 requires a great deal of hard work and commitment. Sofia trains at least three times a week to ensure she stays on top form and regularly takes part in athletics competitions all around the country.
“I’m so proud,” says her mum. “I watch her putting in all this hard work, training late and going out in horrible weather, so then seeing it all pay off is amazing. It’s bittersweet, in a way, because obviously her dad’s not here with us, but we know he’s watching everything she’s doing. It makes me very emotional sometimes.”
“I do feel proud of myself,” Sofia says, “and it’s nice to see all the effort I'm putting in paying off. It’s a lot to fit in but I'm used to it now. I want to train as much as I can so I can compete in the Olympics one day.”
The Scotty Allowance
The Scotty Allowance, an annual grant of £150 which Scotty’s Little Soldiers offer every Member to cover or contribute towards the cost of educational and extracurricular activities, helps Sofia and her family pay for the training she needs to reach her dreams.
Sofia’s mum says: “Every month we pay for training, and Scotty's grants help offset the cost of that, but we could also use it to cover travel costs for competitions or entry fees. It’s a great help and I think Sofia is proof that having that little boost can go such a long way.”
In addition to benefiting from the Scotty Allowance and a wide range of support from Scotty’s, Sofia has attended Scotty events, where she has met other young people bereaved of a military parent, and been on respite breaks provided by the charity. Additionally, all members of Scotty's have access to one-to-one bereavement support, should they ever want it.
“We’ve been on a few Scotty Breaks and they’re always great point of respite for our family,” says Adele. “It’s a chance to relax and talk about Chris while making new memories.”
One event that particularly stands out to Sofia and her mum is a garden party at Buckingham Palace they attended with Scotty’s in 2017, specially for bereaved military families. While at the party, Sofia and her mum met Prince Harry and Prince William, and even took a photo with the Princess of Wales.
“It was really cool,” says Sofia. “I was the last person she took a photo with. It was a great experience.”
For both Sofia and her mum, however, the main benefit of Scotty’s is being able to meet other bereaved military children who can understand what they’ve been through, understand their struggles, and remind them they’re not alone.
“It’s just nice to talk to people who are similar to you,” says Sofia. “It reminds me I’m not the only one who has gone through this stuff.”
“It’s been a lifeline in a way,” adds her mum. “It's a chance to meet other families who have been in a similar situation, which you don’t get in normal day-to-day life. We have a whole support network made up of other Scotty families we’ve met over the years. Everyone has this mutual bond and is so supportive of each other.”
Supporting bereaved military children
Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood.
Services offered to Scotty’s members include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.
If you know a child or young person who has experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they could be eligible for specialist bereavement support from Scotty's Little Soldiers. Hundreds of bereaved military children aren’t getting the support they need but we are here to help.
If you are the parent or carer of a bereaved military child or young person, click here.
If you work with bereaved children & young people, click here.
If you are a bereaved young person seeking support, click here.