British Columbia

Inspired by British veteran's fundraiser, B.C. 101-year-old starts his own walking campaign

Inspired by 100-year-old Tom Moore, who raised millions for the U.K.'s National Health Service, John Hillman, a 101-year-old Second World War veteran in Victoria, is campaigning to raise $101,000 for charity.

Victoria-based John Hillman has pledged to walk 101 laps around his retirement home for charity

John Hillman, a 101-year-old Second World War veteran, has pledged to walk 101 laps around his retirement home in Victoria's Oak Bay to raise money for charity. (Molly Jane Grant/Molly Jane Photography/Carlton House)

Centenarian John Hillman has always taken a keen interest in world events, so when he saw Britain's 100-year-old Second World War veteran Tom Moore completing laps in his garden to raise millions for the U.K.'s National Health Service, inspiration struck.

"I was very impressed by watching Captain Tom on the British news and the fact that he wore the Burma Star," said Hillman, 101, from his retirement home in Victoria's Oak Bay neighbourhood. 

Hillman was also awarded a Burma Star for his service in the Burma campaign during the Second World War. 

Moore's campaign started off with a modest goal of raising £1,000 ($1,750) but has now entered the record books for the most money raised by an individual through a walk: £30 million ($52.5 million).

It's inspired Hillman to start his own walking campaign. He has pledged to do 101 laps — at the pace of five laps per day — around Carlton House, his retirement home, with the goal of raising $101,000 for the Save the Children charity.

"I thought, well, I'm 101 and I've served a very full and eventful life. And it's about time now that we are looking at the young youngsters coming up," Hillman said. 

Watch John Hillman do his final lap of the day:

B.C. centenarian pledges to do 101 laps for charity

1 year ago
1:00
Inspired by Capt. Tom Moore in the U.K., John Hillman,101, is doing laps around the courtyard at his Oak Bay retirement residence to raise money for Save the Children. 1:00

Hillman's granddaughter Marney McDiarmid, who is watching his campaign online from Ontario, says her grandfather always has a project on the go, adding that a family nickname for him is the "Eveready bunny."

"He's someone who's very dynamic and gregarious and capable, so I think he just saw this as an opportunity to make a contribution," McDiarmid said.

She says Hillman has been a savvy adopter of technology, readily taking to Skype and online banking.

But COVID-19 has given technology a different urgency in Hillman's life. 

His wife of 78 years, Irene, has dementia and moved into a long-term care home in March 2019, McDiarmid said. Before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, Hillman used to take the bus by himself to visit her four times a week, but cannot do so anymore. 

McDiarmid said Hillman has been busy working with care-home staff to organize a Skype call with his wife.

"It's not that long they've been living apart ... I actually imagine each step that he's taking is a step that he's taking as if he could walk to see her," she said.

"We're all cheering for him and we're so proud of him."

John HIllman crosses off another lap. Hillman is attempting to do 101 laps — at the pace of five laps a day — to raise $101,000 for Save the Children. (Molly Jane Grant/Molly Jane Photography/Carlton House)

Hillman says he isn't the least bit worried about his fitness levels, having done some practice laps in anticipation. 

"It's only a couple of years ago I stopped playing golf. And it's only two years ago I stopped driving my car, " he said, chuckling. "And I did that under pressure."

Hillman always has a project on the go, his granddaughter Marney McDiarmid said. 'I think he just saw this as an opportunity to make a contribution,' she added. (Molly Jane Grant/Molly Jane Photography/Carlton House)

Resident Ken Ainslie, who came out to see Hillman complete his first set of laps Monday, said the centenarian was "one of a kind."

"Well, No. 1, just to reach the age of 101 is unbelievable," Ainslie said.

"He's a great guy. Tremendous sense of humour and just fun to be around."

And Hillman is keeping up that good humour as he readies himself for his next set of laps, inviting people to come out and watch: "Rain or shine, come hither!"

Staff at Carlton House are livestreaming Hillman's daily laps on Facebook. 

Listen to the interview with Marney McDiarmid on All Points West:

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca

With files from All Points West and CHEK News

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