Zipping around his Oak Bay courtyard under pouring rain, 103-year-old John Hillman doesn’t bat an eye as the media follow, snap and record the start of his third walking fundraiser for Save the Children.
With the practised calm of a pop star he waves at the crowd and thanks his fans who wield signs, clapping and shouting encouragement as he makes 10 tours around the space in front of Carlton House.
Hillman, plans to make about 10 laps a day Monday to Friday this week and next to a total of 103 laps to match his age for the third consecutive year.
The Second World War veteran raised $215,000 doing 101 laps in 2020 and 102 laps in 2021 – inspired by fellow British veteran, the late Capt. Tom Moore who raised funds walking laps at his UK residence in 2020. After learning Moore died in February 2021, attributed to COVID-19, Hillman repeated the event. Moore, and the children, particularly those living in Ukraine, continue to be his inspiration.
“That really touched my heart to see those kids (in Ukraine) being herded away from their homes without any hope of going back to them. It only amplified my desire to help them,” Hillman said.
He had surpassed $18,000 raised before even leaving the start line Monday morning, and that was before Judi Prewett, president of Carlton House offered up a giant cheque for $5,000.
Prewett and fellow Oak Bay resident David Black, owner of Black Press Media, took the first two laps with Hillman. The next lap he was joined by daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Ralph McDiarmid.
The drizzling rain turned to downpour as Hillman made his debut, and may have had some bearing on how quickly the man sped through those final laps after ditching the dignitaries.
“The walk was wet, but I don’t mind, I’ve been in worse weather than that during my service in the wartime. I’ve been in better weather too. Last year of course we were walking in the heat,” Hillman told the media post-walk.
Festivities continue Tuesday when Kindergarteners from St. Christopher’s Montessori School make the walk, then on Wednesday, fellow Carlton House residents and staff plan to lap the courtyard alongside Hillman to the music of Alan Heffer. Thursday, Oak Bay mayor and council join Hillman for the walk, and Friday Oak Bay firefighters and kids from the community make the jaunt.
Hillman rests for the weekend and returns Monday (May 9) with members of the Oak Bay Police Department at his side. Tuesday walkers include a Grade 3 class from Glenlyon-Norfolk School and Wednesday Oak Bay High marching band provides musical accompaniment. Thursday is all about military guests.
Hillman expects to wrap his walking fundraiser Friday (May 13) when bagpiper Melville Johnson returns and singer Stephanie Greaves is set to perform. This year’s fundraising goal is a fitting $103,000. Donate to the cause at savethechildren.akaraisin.com/ui/teamsave/p/Hillman103.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.