RAF veteran John Wilcock zooms around his park on rollerskates and a wheeled zimmer frame - aged 89

·5-min read

An RAF veteran inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore is raising money for charity by ROLLERSKATING around his garden on a wheeled zimmer frame - at the age of 89. John Wilcock has pledged to complete 90 laps of his courtyard in Warwick by doing two circuits a week for the next nine months until his 90th birthday. The retired university lecturer will have travelled an impressive 3.5 miles on his skates by the time he finishes his challenge in January next year. John kicked off his fundraiser on March 9 with the help of his wife Jeanne's roller frame with plans to raise £500 for the charity FareShare. But he smashed his initial target within a matter of days and his current total already stands at almost £6,000. John admitted he got off to a wobbly start after dusting off his roller skates so he borrowed his 85-year-old wife's wheeled zimmer frame to help him along the way. The former RAF police officer says he has since been left "gobsmacked and heartened" by the response from people backing his charity challenge. The great-grandfather-of-one said: "I bought the skates just at the end of the first lockdown as we weren't doing anything and I was a bit unfit. "I was looking for some way to do some exercise and saw this kid skating with his father in the park. "I used to roller skate when I was young and thought what a great way to get back into fitness. "When I was in the RAF in Norfolk there was a skating rink nearby and we used to go there when we were allowed off camp on a Saturday evening. "But when I put them on again I realised I was 90, not 19 - I fell over flat on my back. "That was the end of the skates and I set them aside and thought I'd give them to my son but he didn't want them so sooner or later I was going to put them on eBay. "Then along came Marcus Rashford the footballer with his campaign about hungry children and when I was a kid we were a poor family and relied on free school meals. "I understood what he was doing as there were a lot of people that had been put out of work after what the pandemic had done. "The pandemic has brought it to light and I thought what a great campaign, I sympathised with it all. "Then along came Sir Tom with his challenge for the NHS and I thought I bet if I take my wife's roller I can do that on skates. "I tried it and it worked. I obviously can't skate without it but I can do it quite well with it. "Sir Tom did 100 laps for his birthday so if I do 90 for mine I thought I might be able to get a few pounds together for FareShare. "I started off with just relatives and friends so I set £500 as a target and thought with a bit of luck by Christmas I might get up to £1,000. "I had been skating in my courtyard but have also decided to go to my local park as the paths in there are nice and smooth. "There I met a lady and she was taken by what I was doing. She was some kind of wizard on social media and took a picture and put it on Facebook and it just went a bit mad. "I was close to £500 and I'm now nearly at £6,000 and it shot up about £5,500 in only three days." John, who was called up for national service in 1950 to serve in the Royal Air Force spent three years as a policeman in West Germany. After returning three-years later he had plans of becoming a police officer but instead decided to become a psychology university lecturer after re-training. The dad-of-three and a grandfather-of-five says he has the full support of his family even with his daughters living thousands of miles away. He added: "Most of my family live in Australia so they can't really help as they aren't close enough. I'm sort of a one-man band with it all. "But I have got quite a bit of local support now with the help of three ladies in particular who are posting stuff around on social media. "Thank you to all the people who have donated and to the people who gave me a cheer when I was in the park. "It was just really heartening and empowering and it gave me a real spur. "In the courtyard, no one sees me so it is great to get out and get exercise and give people the opportunity to see what I am trying to do. "My wife thinks she is going to have to start charging me for her roller. "But I just feel quite privileged when people donate and they make comments - it's very empowering. "It's not about me I'm just a kind of instrument really the heroes are the donors themselves and the charity. "I'm just like an orchestra conductor really and waving my arms around, I just feel very privileged in a lot of ways to be able to do it. "I'm not important, what's important is stressing what I am doing it all for and the charity I'm raising money for. "I will be going until January so look out for me. "People keep saying I am Warwick's Captain Sir Thomas Moore. He was a great inspiration to me but that is as far as it goes as we are opposites in many ways. "I was in the RAF and he was in the army and I am from Lancashire and he was from Yorkshire!" John is raising money for FareShare, a charity that helps children and families by redistributing food that would otherwise go to waste. It is a cause close to his heart having been brought up in a working class mining community in south Lancashire as the eldest of seven children. To donate visit: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/John-Wilcock2?fbclid=IwAR0jX0vvucW_Kk55FzxYGYb-L6VJ7thtASY-qHoHgWvftOxdxZrvXqQpKKs