A GREAT grandad had a hero’s welcome at the end of a year-long walking challenge.
Tony Cunningham, who underwent a quadruple heart bypass, has now raised more than £10,000 for Warwick-based charity Molly Ollys by clocking up over 5,050 miles – around 10 million steps – on his early morning laps around the park.
The 73-year-old, from Coventry, has smashed his personal target to walk ten miles a day throughout 2022 and received a hero’s welcome after completing his last circuit of the city’s Memorial Park.
This means the intrepid fundraiser has now travelled almost the equivalent distance of Coventry to Phoenix in Arizona – even overcoming health issues and the most extremes of weather conditions along the way.
Despite this Tony missed only seven 6am starts on the advice of doctors, insisting the charity cause as well as the support he received, made him determined to see the challenge through.
He said: “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.
“Getting up at 5am and walking between ten and 18 miles a day every day is a challenge in itself, but the weather can make it even more so. Walking in arctic temperatures certainly takes its toll, but you can always add extra layers of clothing to keep you warm. By far the worst weather conditions I’ve encountered were the four named storms we had this year when I was soaked to the skin because once you’re drenched that’s the way you stay until you can get a hot bath and some dry clothes on.
“On the two days of extreme hot temperatures in the summer I was advised not to walk due to being classed as extremely vulnerable.
“I said at the outset that I didn’t know if I could complete this challenge, I must confess to a sense of achievement.”
And it’s the daily support that Tony most reflects on since completing his final lap on New Year’s Eve.
He was spurred on every day by the precious memory of his late wife Jackie of 47 years, who died of cancer last year.
Tony continued: “I feel like she has been with me in spirit throughout. I think it has surprised a lot of people that I’ve kept it up.”
Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marked its tenth anniversary this year.
The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
There is still time to sponsor Tony at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/anthony-cunningham5