London, United Kingdom, Apr 16 – A 99-year-old British World War II veteran on Thursday completed 100 laps of his garden in a fundraising challenge for healthcare staff that has “captured the heart of the nation”, raising more than £13 million ($16.2 million, 14.9 million euros).
“Incredible and now words fail me,” said Tom Moore, a captain who served in India, after finishing the laps of his 25-metre (82-foot) garden with the help of his walking frame.
Moore initially set himself the goal of raising £1,000 for a National Health Service charity in time for his 100th birthday at the end of the month, after receiving treatment for cancer and a broken hip.
But his efforts — a rare bit of good news during the global coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 13,000 people in Britain alone — have made him a star in his own country and abroad, with the government suggesting honours may be in order.
“Thank you all for your amazing support. It has been a memorable experience. Thank you so much,” he wrote on Twitter.
The final lap of his garden in Bedfordshire, south England, was met with a guard of honour from the Yorkshire Regiment and broadcast live on British TV.
“I’m surrounded by the right kind of people,” Moore told the BBC. “I’m feeling fine, I hope you are all feeling fine too.”
Previously he has spoken of his admiration for medical staff.
“In the last war it was soldiers in uniform on the front line. This time our army are the doctors and nurses (in) uniforms,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain earlier this week.
“We will survive this.”
– ‘Inspiration’ –
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Tom has captured the heart of the nation with his heroic effort.
“From his military contributions to his support for NHS staff, Tom has demonstrated a lifetime of bravery and compassion,” he said.
“The prime minister will certainly be looking at ways to recognise Tom for his heroic efforts.”
Johnson is currently off work recovering from coronavirus after being released on Sunday from a week-long stay in hospital.
More than 690,000 people have contributed funds, and the rush of donations caused the JustGiving page to temporarily crash.
His efforts have been lauded around the world.
“Captain Moore, we are truly impressed on this side of the pond. I think you’re remarkable, what you’ve done is an inspiration,” said US TV star Judge Judy in a video message.
“Congratulations on your fantastic success,” added Dutch violinist and conductor Andre Rieu. “I invite you and your whole family to one of my concerts.”
England cricket icon Ben Stokes said the funds raised “for the real heroes today is simply sensational”.
“I hope I’m moving just as well as you at 50, never mind 100,” he joked.
The veteran has also received online support from former Manchester United and Arsenal football captains Rio Ferdinand and Tony Adams and Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes.