An 104-year-old grandmother who raised £40,000 for the British Heart Foundation has been hailed an ‘inspiration’ after walking 17 miles up and down a hill outside her care home.
Joan Willett, from Hastings, was inspired by Captain Tom Moore, the 100-year-old World War Two veteran who raised over £30 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden during lockdown.
Appearing on Lorraine today, Joan told how she received ‘pioneering’ heart surgery which saved her life, and went on to praise the ‘generosity and kindness’ of all of those who have supported her campaign.
The former teacher was then surprised with a video message from Sir Tom, who congratulated her on a ‘very good job’ and urged her to ‘keep going’ – and the pair were inundated with comments from Twitter users, hailing the pair ‘truly amazing’.
Joan told: ‘I feel fine and it’s all down to the care I’ve received here at Hastings House. I’m enjoying life even if I am 104.’
Speaking of why she chose to donate to the British Heart Foundation, Joan said: ‘It was 20 odd years ago now, I had a very severe heart attack.
‘I was taken to Kings Hospital in London, they performed a pioneering surgery and I wasn’t expected to live. That was 22 years ago and due to the skill and help around me [I survived]
‘Even people I don’t know have given me encouragement on my walk and the fact I’m here, is due to other people.’
Joan was later surprised with a video from Tom and his family, and the veteran said: ‘Well done Joan. You’re doing a very good job, well done and keep going.’
Joan replied: ‘Thank you very much indeed. I hope you continue to enjoy life as much as I am’.
The exchange delighted viewers, with one writing: ‘What two truly amazing people, we can learn a lot from our older generation. Nothing fazes them.’
Another added: ‘Oh my god Joan the 104 year old lady raising money doing her walk and having a message from @captaintommoore is just too much for me this morning’.
‘Wow what a girl Joan is on #lorraine! She’s an absolute inspiration’, said a third.
Joan went on to reveal that the ‘secret to her old age’ is walking, and insisted it helps her ‘keep in touch with the outside world’.
She said: ‘I do believe you must keep walking and taking and taking in everything going on around you. But it’s only by walking outdoors you can keep in touch with the outside world.’
Joan’s fundraising target was £500 but her tenacity has captured the public’s hearts, resulting in a surge in donations in recent days.
She went on to thank those who donated to her campaign, insisting ‘there’s so much kindness in the world’ and revealed her project has allowed her to reconnect with people she hasn’t seen in over 50-years.
‘I’m so grateful to everyone for all their help and encouragement they’ve given me, said Joan.
‘It hasn’t always been easy, but i’ve managed it with the help of my friend and carer Pauline.
I want to be able to thank everyone for all their generosity and kindness, there is so much kindness around.
‘We don’t notice very often but there are so many kind people around and some I don’t even know and I’ve enjoyed doing it, because it’s put me in touch with people I haven’t seen for 50 or 60 years.’
Ahead of her surprise from Tom, Joan admitted that she was inspired after seeing the veteran’s success, as she felt ‘if he can do it I can do it’.
She told: ‘I would like to meet him, but I would like to thank him also. Because it was thanks to his effort I started mine. I said, “if he can do it, I can do it”.’