Elderly fundraisers pay tribute to ‘big inspiration’ Captain Tom

PA Reporters
·3-min read

Elderly fundraisers have paid tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, whose walking inspired them to complete their own challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 100-year-old became a household name across the UK after he raised more than £32 million for the NHS during the first coronavirus lockdown.

In doing so he inspired a generation to defy their age and complete similar feats of fundraising.

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout photo issued by Old Hastings House/British Heart Foundation showing Joan Willett, a resident at Old Hastings House care home in Hastings, East Sussex, who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on January 15. The centenarian raised more than �50,000 for the British Heart Foundation with a daily hill climb during lockdown. Issue date: Tuesday January 19, 2021
Joan Willett said Sir Tom was the ‘big inspiration’ for taking on her own challenge (Old Hastings House/British Heart Foundation)

Joan Willett – a 104-year-old double heart attack survivor who was inspired by Sir Tom to complete a 17-mile walking challenge outside her care home – said she will “carry Sir Tom in my heart” as she continues her daily walks.

Ms Willett raised more than £50,000 for the British Heart Foundation by walking up and down the hill outside her care home in Hastings.

She was congratulated by Sir Tom, who said she had done “a very good job”.

She said: “Like everyone else, I’m very saddened by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death. He was the big inspiration for taking on my own challenge.

“When I first saw him doing his walk on TV, I thought he was marvellous and he made me smile. That’s when I said to myself, ‘If Captain Tom can do it so can I’. He inspired me to go the extra mile so I decided to climb up and down a hill every day for my challenge.

“Sadly we never met but I was so surprised and delighted when he and his lovely family recorded a special video message of support for me during my walk. That really spurred me on and I’ll never forget him.

“He was a wonderful man who made us realise that although there’s a lot of bad things in the world, there is also such good and that gives us hope during times like this. I am still doing my daily walks and will carry Sir Tom in my heart every time”.

Dabirul Islam Choudhury, 101, meanwhile raised more than £420,000 by walking 970 laps of his communal garden while fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in April and May last year.

Mr Dabirul Islam Choudhury who has been awarded the OBE for charitable service during Covid-19, photographed at his home in Bow, east London
Dabirul Islam Choudhury walked 970 laps of his garden during Ramadan (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Choudhury said: “Captain Tom Moore has inspired millions in the UK and globally, including me, to step up our efforts during the most difficult times.

“He is our real hero and we will miss him terribly.”

Mr Choudhury’s own fundraising drive at his home in Bow, east London, earned him an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last year, as well as a chat with Sir Tom himself.

He donated the money he raised to the Ramadan Family Commitment and Love4NHS campaigns run by CHS TV.

Margaret Payne, 90, of Ardvar, Sutherland, described Sir Tom as “quite outstanding in every way”.

Undated handout photo of Margaret Payne at her home in Ardvar, Sutherland. The 90-year-old finished her challenge to climb the equivalent height of Suilven on her stairs
Margaret Payne was inspired by Sir Tom to climb the equivalent of a mountain on her stairs for charity (Nicky McArthur/PA)

Mrs Payne was inspired by Sir Tom to climb the equivalent of a mountain on her stairs for charity, raising £436,000 after scaling the height of the 731-metre Suilven on her staircase at home.

She said: “I don’t see anybody else ever making that kind of money for a cause. I think he was quite outstanding in every way, that he survived the Burma campaign and lived to be so old.

“I think he must have been a wonderful person.”

Mrs Payne’s staircase climbing raised funds for the NHS, the Highland Hospice and the RNLI.

She was honoured by the Queen for her efforts, receiving a British Empire Medal for services to the community in Lochinver, Sutherland.