A GREAT-grandad who underwent a quadruple heart bypass is pledging to walk ten miles a day in 2022 to raise funds for a Warwick children’s charity.
Tony Cunningham, from Coventry, is hoping to run up a total for Molly Olly’s Wishes by completing laps around the city’s Memorial Park, starting at 7am on New Year’s Day.
The walking challenge marks a long-awaited return to fitness for the 72-year-old who underwent lifesaving heart surgery four years ago.
Tony said: “My health has improved enormously since I started doing the walks so I wanted to keep pushing myself further and further each time. The kids think I’m completely bonkers and keep asking if I really ought to be doing this, but I’m determined to give it my best shot.”
It is the latest – but greatest – fund-raising challenge for Liverpool-born Tony, who also supported the Alzheimer’s Society six years ago and raised over £1,000 for Cancer Research with a month-long 334-mile walk in summer.
Tony – who lost his wife Jackie of 47 years to cancer earlier this year – said: “Four years ago I took part in a team fund-raising effort for Molly Olly’s Wishes at Burbidge & Son where I worked and it really resonated with me. It’s such a worthwhile cause and, as a charity, gives children and their families some pleasure in the darkest of times.”
Molly Olly’s Wishes was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.
The charity supports children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families. It grants wishes, helps with emotional support and it donates therapeutic toys and books to children across the UK.
No stranger to the pain of child loss, Tony admits it is a cause that touches him deeply.
“My wife and I lost twins in my first marriage when I was just 21. One was stillborn and one died in my arms on the way to the hospital. Even though it was 50 years ago that torments me to this day. There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think about that.”
Charity co-founder Rachel added: “Tony is truly amazing. To offer to walk 10 miles a day to mark our tenth birthday is no small feat for any age, but to do it at 72 years of age is quite something. Tony will be running 3,650 miles across 2022 in aid of Molly Olly’s and we are so thankful. The money Tony raises will help us to support children who’re going through very tough times with their health.”
And he is sure Jackie will be with him in spirit every step of the way.
Tony added: “Some time ago I asked if I could put Jackie’s ashes in the rose garden at the Memorial Park but didn’t hear anything back from the council so I ended up putting them on my parents’ grave. But regularly when I walk past the rose garden on my training sessions I keep seeing someone in my peripheral vision and when I turn around there is no one there. So I know she is with me in spirit. She would probably call me a nutter. But I think she would be proud of me. She would have been there shouting me on.”
Tony’s fund-raising has already attracted the support of local councillors, some who have pledged to join him at the start of his walk.
Among them are Earlsdon councillors Dr Kindy Sandhu and Becky Gittins.
Coun Gittins said: “It is great to see Tony so passionate about raising money for Molly Olly’s Wishes. He is really challenging himself physically to raise as much money as he can for such a worthy cause. I hope people will give what they can to support him and improve the lives of seriously ill children in our area.”
Visit www.justgiving.com and search Tony’s Molly Olly’s Wishes: 3650 to donate.