The Saturday morning rain held off just long enough for 101-year-old Oak Bay resident John Hillman to complete his 101st lap for charity.
The Second World War veteran began his multi-lap march around the courtyard of the Carlton House retirement home on May 4. Hillman pledged to do 101 laps to raise $101,000 for Save the Children, Canada’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.
He was inspired by Capt. Tom Moore of England, who did 100 laps of his garden to raise money for NHS Charities Together that supports hospitals in the U.K. Both veterans were also awarded the Burma Star medal for their service.
Hillman surpassed his fundraising goal by May 12 and by the time he completed his last lap, he’d raised nearly $150,000.
On May 16, Carlton House residents, members of the Oak Bay community, military personnel and emergency crews filled the courtyard – while practicing social distancing – to watch the centenarian complete his final six laps. Hillman marched around the courtyard to the sound of applause and bagpipes – courtesy of David Martin, a member of the Greater Victoria Police Pipe Band.
Hillman said he felt like “jumping over the moon” when he saw the crowd that had gathered to cheer him on. He added that the rain stayed away for his last laps thanks to “the angels on his shoulder.”
The crowd whooped and cheered as Hillman rounded the corner for his last lap. Members of the military stood in salute as the veteran passed by and he returned the gesture.
Upon completion of the 101 laps, Hillman was ready for a little rest. He sat to watch while local musician Stephanie Greaves serenaded him with songs from the Second World War era. Greaves was honoured to sing for Hillman as she’s known him for many years and wanted to help celebrate his achievement.
Philippe Couveignes, executive director of Carlton House, said staff weren’t worried about Hillman being physically able to complete 101 laps despite his age.
“He’s very independent,” he said, noting that Hillman practiced before starting the official laps by doing 10 laps a day.
Couveignes added that Hillman’s bright personality helped his cause grow.
After Greaves’ finished her songs, Hillman thanked everyone for supporting his endeavour.
“I was determined to complete [101 laps] whether we made the target or not,” he said. “But we exceeded the target tremendously and I’m so appreciative of the response. You’ve shown such generosity to my cause – I just could not hope for anything more.”
After addressing the crowd, Hillman took a victory lap before toasting his supporters with a few sips of scotch – a gift from a fellow Carlton House resident.
“I knew I could do it and I’ve done it,” he said beaming with pride. “I feel on top of the world.”
Hillman felt he could do a few more laps but said he’d take a rest and maybe even sleep in the next morning.
Hillman’s online fundraiser will remain open until the end of the month. To donate, visit canadahelps.org.
– With files from Travis Paterson.