A British army veteran who raised more than £31 million ($38 million) for his country’s National Health Service “heroes” is celebrating his 100th birthday in style.
Tom Moore, who pledged to walk 100 laps around his back garden before his centennial celebration Thursday, was honored with special messages from Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a military flyover and more than 150,000 birthday cards made by children at Bedford School, where his grandson Benjie Ingram-Moore is a student.
“I know I speak for the whole nation when I say we wish you a very happy 100th birthday,” Johnson said in a video message. “Your heroic efforts have lifted the spirits of the entire nation, you’ve created a channel to enable millions to say a heartfelt thank you to the remarkable men and women in our NHS who have all been doing the most outstanding job.”
Moore was appointed as the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College Harrogate, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
“His mature wisdom, no-nonsense attitude and humour in adversity make him an inspirational role model to generations young and old,” General Mark Carleton-Smith, chief of the general staff of the British Army, said in a statement Thursday.
Moore, who was also made an Honorary Member of the England cricket team and given a custom WWE title, thanked his supporters for their donations on Twitter and said he was looking forward to a day of celebration with family.
“It is quite extraordinary that I am turning 100. It is even more extraordinary that I am doing so with this many well-wishers and I am in awe at the response my walking has had…,” he said in a tweet. “To everyone who has donated, sent birthday cards and messages, sincerely thank you. Please stay home, stay safe.”
Moore initially hoped to raise about £1,000 ($1,250) for NHS Charities Together, which helps charities raise money for United Kingdom hospitals and supports NHS staff and volunteers caring for COVID-19 patients. He aimed to walk 10 laps each day with the help of a walking frame.
Within about 24 hours he reached his initial goal, according to a post on his fundraising page April 10. A few days later, Moore had raised more than £1 million ($1.25 million).
Moore announced on Twitter earlier this month that he had completed his 100 laps and thanked the public for their contributions.
“Thank you so much. The JustGiving page has crashed with all your amazing efforts,” he tweeted. “I salute you all. Incredible and now words fail me.”
Moore was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, where he trained as a civil engineer before enlisting in the army at the beginning of World War II. He later served in India and Indonesia.
His daughter, Hannah, told the Guardian that she wanted to make Moore’s upcoming centennial birthday special after they had to cancel his party, and Moore is determined to walk another 100 laps if it means raising more money.
He told the BBC that he began raising the funds to thank the NHS staff who helped him with treatment for cancer and a broken hip.
“When you think of who it is all for – all those brave and super doctors and nurses we have got,” he told the outlet. “I think they deserve every penny, and I hope we get some more for them, too.”
The funds have been used to directly support staff, volunteers and patients providing comfortable places for breaks, food and drink, and electronic tablets so they can stay in contact with loved ones, according to Beth Gaudin, a spokesperson for NHS Charities Together. The funding will also go toward services outside hospitals, such as hospices, community health care, social care, counseling support and ensuring patients have access to care after they leave the hospital, Gaudin said.
Ellie Orton, the chief executive of NHS Charities Together, called Moore “a true inspiration” in a statement to USA TODAY.
“What he has achieved in bringing people together, and highlighting the appeal, has been remarkable,” Orton said. “We couldn’t be more grateful and impressed with everything he has done. Thank you to everyone that has supported him in his 100 laps and, of course, to him personally for the difference he will make to frontline staff, volunteers and patients during this incredibly difficult time.”
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