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Saturday, 19 September 2020

CHARITY TODAY AWARDS

Sir Tom Moore gives heartfelt message to 104-year-old BHF fundraiser, Joan Willet

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LOCKDOWN hero, Sir Tom Moore, has congratulated 104-year-old Joan Willett for completing an epic 17-mile walking challenge, which has already raised more than £40,000.

After hearing of Joan’s impressive feat, Sir Tom contacted Joan through the Lorraine show on ITV with a congratulatory message and thanked her. He praised her efforts, saying: “Well done Joan, you’ve done a very good job! Thank you very much, and keep going!”

Having been inspired to do her fundraising challenge by Sir Tom Moore’s own walking challenge, Joan was delighted with his message to her. Speaking on the show just before their virtual meet, she said: “I would like to meet Sir Tom Moore one day, but I would like to thank him also. It was because of his efforts that I started on my walk.”

Little did Joan know that she would be meeting Sir Tom just a few seconds later. After hearing Sir Tom’s message, an elated Joan replied: “Thank you very much indeed! I hope you continue to enjoy life as much as I am.”

The East Sussex centenarian, who had life-saving heart surgery 20 years ago, has spent the last six weeks walking up and down the hill outside of her care home in Hastings, clocking-up nearly 20 miles.

Joan’s fundraising target was £500 but her tenacity, courage and selflessness has captured the public’s hearts, resulting in a surge in donations in recent days. Joan has now raised as an astonishing amount of money for the BHF, more than £30,000 of which has been donated this week. This total is still climbing.

During the six weeks, Joan’s image was also broadcast over Piccadilly Circus, after the charity received in-kind support to raise awareness of her challenge. 

Joan continued: “The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming. They started when I saw my name and story up in lights in Piccadilly Circus in London – which the BHF had organised as a thank you. I have had people from all over the world support me and now a message from Captain Tom himself! I just want to thank everyone, people I know and those I don’t, from the bottom of my heart for supporting me. There is so much kindness in the world and those many kind people are the reason I am here today.

“When I was 82 years old, I suffered my second heart attack which meant I needed a double heart bypass and a new synthetic valve. I am so grateful to the BHF and its research that made operations like mine possible.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive, said:

“It’s so touching to hear Sir Tom Moore’s message for Joan – what an inspiration they both are to us all. The BHF is so grateful to Joan for her incredible efforts to raise urgently needed funds for our life-saving research. Her support means so much, particularly at a time when the Covid-19 crisis has devastated charity funding for research.

“Joan is an incredible lady, and this message from Sir Tom Moore will mean so much to her. The money that Joan has raised will help other people to live long and fulfilling lives just like her, and have a lasting legacy through BHF’s life-saving research.

“People are still donating to support Joan’s fundraising page, and we’d love to see even more of the nation donate to back her efforts to fund vital research into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart and circulatory diseases.”

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