HE’S been dressed in his trademark tartan trews and shaking his collection tin for a staggering 80 years, but this year promises to be a record-breaker for veteran fundraiser Tom Gilzean.
The 94-year-old, who can be seen gathering money on the Royal Mile in all weathers, is on track to raise an astonishing £50,000 by the end of 2014.
Friends of the selfless widower think he “deserves a rest” and have set up his first ever fundraising webpage in a final push to help him reach the milestone.
“I’m out collecting in all weathers, which can be very cold and rainy but I love it,” he said. “I’m really hoping it’s going to be my record year, I hope I get to £50,000 by the end of it.
“Nothing will stop me from fundraising and I’ve already signed up to be a volunteer next year, I’ve got my licence. I’ve had pneumonia four times but I won’t let anything stand in my way. If I live another six months I’ll be 95 years old, and it gives me something to keep looking forward to.”
The former Royal Engineer, who saw action on the battlefields of Europe during the Second World War, now needs just £5000 to reach his target with the promise half will go to one of his favourite charities, the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.
Mr Gilzean has previously raised more than £100,000 for charities and good causes in and around Edinburgh, benefiting children, OAPs and fellow war veterans. “It’s so important to me that I keep raising money. I’ve been fundraising for 80 years now and I’m determined to keep going until I’m 100. I want to say thank you to everyone who gives so generously – I couldn’t do it without you.”
A recent survey found people from the Capital are among the most generous in Britain when it comes to random acts of kindness. Of those asked, 78 per cent of people claimed they carried out acts of generosity at least once a week.
Mr Gilzean’s dedication and generosity led the Scottish Government’s Veterans Minister, Keith Brown, local MSP Jim Eadie, and ex-servicemen and women’s charity Poppyscotland to call on the Capital to hand him its highest honour of Freedom of the City.
Lord Provost Donald Wilson wants the prolific fundraiser nominated for The Edinburgh Award – “a prestigious annual award to honour an outstanding individual who has made a positive impact on the city”.
Money raised so far has been used to provide world-class equipment such as mini image intensifier scanning equipment worth £53,000 and extra family-friendly services including art therapy and parent accommodation at the Sick Kids hospital.
Maureen Harrison, chief executive of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, said he was an inspiration.
She said: “Tom has been one of our greatest supporters for many years and we’re overwhelmed that come rain, shine and even illness, Tom continues to work so hard to raise funds for great causes including the foundation.
“We think Tom deserves to take a break from his tireless campaigning and would love to see as many as people as possible make an online donation to help this legendary volunteer reach yet another ambitious milestone.”
To help Tom hit £50,000, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TomGilzean.