In Pictures: Great grandad completes charity challenge early for Warwick-based charity - but vows to keep going
A 72-year-old great-grandad who underwent a quadruple heart bypass has exceeded his pledge to walk ten miles a day throughout 2022 for a Warwick children’s charity – by completing it in September.
Tony Cunningham, from Coventry, has this week raised more than £6,500 for Molly Ollys by clocking up 3,650 miles on his early morning laps around the city’s Memorial Park.
Tony, who has only missed two 6am starts since he began due to illness last week, has now taken more than seven million steps - the equivalent distance of Coventry to Texas.
He said: “Compared to when I started out six months ago I can now say I’ve walked the walk, rather than just talked the talk.
“Several things keep me motivated. Most of all I don’t want to let down the children and their families who are helped by Molly Ollys.
“I am a determined and driven person who aims to complete what I’ve set out to do, and the support I get in the park and on social media is absolutely phenomenal.
"I’ve made lots of good friends along the way.”
It’s this daily support that Tony will most reflect on when he completes his final lap on New Year’s Eve.
He said: “My biggest highlights so far are meeting three mums in the park who have had cause to be helped by the charity and, just last month, bumping into two nurses at UHCW (University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire) who helped me through my operation five years ago, Angie Cummings who worked on ICU and Heidi Seidl who was in the operating theatre.
"It was incredible to see them again – and under very different circumstances.
“One of my biggest supporters has been an old friend from school Bernard Fitzpatrick who has joined me on many of my walks.”
The great grandad of six is also spurred on every day by the memory of his late wife Jackie of 47 years, who died of cancer last year.
“I feel she is with me in spirit. I think she’d be cheering me on while still telling me I’m mad. I think it has surprised a lot of people that I’ve kept it up.”
Warwick-based Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marks its tenth anniversary this year.
The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It helps with emotional support and donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.
Rachel said: “Tony has taken on a huge challenge that should not be underestimated.
"We can easily say “walk 10 miles a day” but with respect at the age of 72 and with various health conditions, through all weathers and alone is incredible.
"He always does it with humour and good nature and a strong desire to spread the news about the work of Molly Ollys.
"He is a legend and we are so grateful to him and all those that have walked with him and sponsored him. Thank you.”
Tony is determined to raise as much money as possible until the end of the year and has set a new target of 5,000 miles.