LONDON — It appears that Capt. Tom Moore is the hero Britain so desperately needs right now.
Last week, the 99-year-old veteran set himself a goal to raise money for Britain’s widely cherished but chronically underfunded National Health Service during the deadly coronavirus outbreak. He set up a fundraising page and decided to walk the 82-foot length of his garden back and forth 100 times, using his walker for support.
He split the journey into chunks of 10 laps with the idea of completing them before his 100th birthday on April 30. Initially, he wanted to raise 1,000 pounds ($1,250). But to his surprise, just 24 hours after Moore (or Captain Moore as he is fondly known on social media) started, he had raised the equivalent of $8,750. By Tuesday, his donations had leapt to $1.25 million. And on Thursday, as he finished his final lap — which was two weeks ahead of schedule and livestreamed by the BBC — that figure hit $15 million. As he crossed the finish line six days after his effort began, balloons could be seen in the distance, and soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment formed a guard of honor and saluted him. Strained health-care workers thanked him across the country.
The donations have not stopped. As of Friday morning, Moore had raised $23 million for Britain’s health-care system as workers risked their lives to save others. More than 13,000 people in the United Kingdom have died of the virus, including 27 health-care staff.
Moore, who served in India during World War II, has drawn national and international acclaim while documenting his walking adventure on social media. As interest in the veteran grew and donations climbed, his JustGiving page crashed continuously due to the sheer volume of people flocking to support him as he carried out his pledge in Bedfordshire, 50 miles north of London.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called him an “inspiration,” while heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua labeled him a “phenomenal human.” On Friday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine, hailed his story as “incredible” during an interview with “BBC Breakfast.” Prince William, who is second in line to the British throne after his father, Prince Charles, called Moore a “one-man fundraising machine.”
“I think it’s absolutely amazing that my super prince can say something like that,” Moore responded to the BBC after watching the royal couple’s comments.
In recent days, thousands have used the top trending Twitter hashtags #walkwithtom and #CaptainTomMoore to offer the veteran well wishes and cheer him on. Moore has been grateful for the outpouring of love, regularly taking to social media to thank those who had donated and shared his story.
Moore has been embraced across the country as a national treasure who is bringing people together during a period of tragedy and widespread uncertainty. More than half a million people have signed a petition asking for Moore be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts.
“This amazing motivational hero deserves to be awarded a knighthood,” the petition reads. “Please sign to make it happen.” On Thursday, a spokesman for No. 10 Downing Street said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently spent days in intensive care while battling COVID-19 himself, would “certainly be looking at ways to recognize Tom for his heroic efforts.”
The spokesman added that Moore has “captured the heart of a nation” and “demonstrated a lifetime of bravery and compassion.”
In an interview with the BBC, Moore’s daughter, Hannah Ingram Moore, said he had suffered a broken hip in recent years and that the injury had made him less independent. She added that his newfound fame and fundraising initiative gives him a sense of purpose. “I think he’ll do this until everyone says stop,” she said.
All funds raised by Moore will be donated to a group of charities that support and protect Britain’s NHS at a time when the organization is crying out for support, funding and better protection for its workers.
In an interview with Sky News Australia on Friday, Moore hailed Britain’s health-care workers, explaining that they had helped him in the past and provided “magnificent service.” He continued to champion workers on the front lines by saying: “They’re all being so brave. Every day they’re putting themselves in danger of this unseen enemy that we’ve got at the moment.”
“I’ve always believed that things will get better,” Moore said when asked about his positive outlook.
“Remember in the wartime, things were bad but eventually they seemed to get better. We fought on and we won,” he said in the interview.
Looking ahead to his centennial birthday on April 30, children across the country are decorating birthday cards to help him celebrate the milestone. Until then, Moore says he still has work to do.
“Although the mission is complete — I am going to keep on going,” he tweeted on Thursday.