104-year old pensioner finishes astonishing 17 mile climb on her birthday, raising £35,000 for the British Heart Foundation so far … reports London Daily Newsdesk
Remarkable pensioner, Joan Willet, has marked her 104th birthday by completing an epic fundraising challenge, which has raised more than £35,000 for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) so far.
The East Sussex Centurion, 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, clocking-up more than 17 miles.
Joan, who lives at Old Hastings House residential home, was inspired by fellow centenarian Sir Tom Moore to do her daily treks. After watching the newly knighted Sir Tom raise a staggering amount for the NHS, she decided to use her daily exercise regime to fund BHF’s research which she says helped her reach her 100th birthday and beyond.
Joan’s fundraising target was £500 but her tenacity, courage and selflessness has captured the public’s hearts, resulting in a surge in donations as she completed the challenge. Joan has now raised £35,000 – more than £20,000 of which came an hour after an appearance on national television – for the BHF and the 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.
On her 104th birthday, an elated Joan said: “I am lost for words at the kindness of everyone and particularly strangers who have supported me and donated to the BHF for my walk from all over the country and even Australia!
“You only hear about the bad things in the world and apart from raising a great amount of money, it has given me great faith in humanity and really motivated me to walk every day. There’s so much kindness in the world as well as the awful things and I have experienced the best of human nature doing this walk.”
Around 100 people gathered by the hill outside her care home as she embarked on her final series of walks, cheered on by fellow residents, local well-wishers and even former pupils who she had taught during her 30-year teaching career.
As Joan made her descent down the steep hill, she walked through two special birthday arches made by friends and care home staff. Once finished, she was showered with gifts including bouquets of flowers, a giant birthday cake adorned with flowers and more than 50 cards sent from strangers across the country. The BHF also presented her with a special gift – an engraving on its iconic Heart of Steel Sculpture in Sheffield.
Joan continued: “This week has been overwhelming, it started when I saw my name and story up in lights on the Piccadilly Lights in London – which the BHF had organised as a thank you. I just want to thank everyone, people I know and those I don’t, from the bottom of my heart for supporting me.
“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, Chief Executive at the BHF, said: “I can’t express just how grateful the BHF are to Joan and her incredible effort which has raised this phenomenal amount of money for research into heart and circulatory diseases. Her support means so much, particularly in these difficult times when charities like ours are suffering from the impact of Covid-19.
“Joan is an exceptional lady and the money she is raising for us will help others live long and fulfilling lives like her. Her inspiring story and the money she’s raised will leave a lasting legacy in terms of the research it enables, and people it helps. Her fundraising page is still open, and we’d encourage even more of the nation to reward her efforts with a donation will help vital fund vital research into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat heart and circulatory diseases.”
Joan’s fundraiser is just the latest chapter in an incredible life. Born in the middle of the First World War- she didn’t meet her father until she was two years old as he was fighting in France. She went on to forge a successful career in teaching.
Joan’s fundraising page is: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joansdailyhike