Tom Gilzean sets up charity to carry on his work

Tom Gilzen and the Lord Provost at the Edinburgh Award ceremony. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tom Gilzen and the Lord Provost at the Edinburgh Award ceremony. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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FUNDRAISING stalwart Tom Gilzean is setting up a new charity to ensure his good work carries on beyond his years.

The 94-year-old war veteran, who collected the prestigious Edinburgh Award earlier this week, will call the foundation Open Up Your Hearts – his catchphase as he collects cash in Princes Street and the Royal Mile.

Daughter Maureen revealed the plans during the City Chambers ceremony, but insisted her dad had no plans to bow out from his tireless charity work.

Ms Gilzean, who lives in Spain but attended the ceremony on Tuesday evening, said: “We are hoping to set up a charity this year so that his good work can continue in his name when he’s not here any more.

“We are proposing to call it the Open Up Your Hearts Foundation and we have discovered that the name is still available which is great news.”

The former bus driver can be found every day in the city centre collecting for his chosen charities, including the Sick Kids.

Rachel McKenzie, head of voluntary fundraising at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, welcomed news of the charity.

She said: “We are delighted to hear that a foundation will be set up in Tom Gilzean’s name to ensure that his charitable work continues for many years to come.

“This is an incredible legacy for a remarkable man who is one of our most esteemed volunteers.

“To date, Tom has raised over £127,000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation alone, by asking passers-by to open up their hearts. As a grateful beneficiary of his tireless fundraising, we believe it only fitting that Tom’s famous words will endure, encouraging others to continue to support worthy 
local causes across the city.”

Collecting the Edinburgh Award at the City Chambers, Mr Gilzean said that the charity would have a strong online presence.

He is no stranger to the power of internet fundraising and his Facebook page, Tom Gilzean Appreciation Society, boasts more than 4000 likes and links to a donation page.

“I’m hoping to put Open up Your Hearts online and have it made public,” he said.

Mr Gilzean, who started collecting for charity to stave off depression following the death of his wife of 55 years, has been awarded several honours, including the British Empire Medal by the Queen in 2013.

His daughter said: “We think the total he has raised is somewhere in excess of £300,000, but I don’t know the exact figure.

“He got a letter saying he had raised £250,000 and that was two years ago. Last year donations totalled over £50,000.

“This year his aim is £60,000 because each year he tries to up it. He always moves the goalposts.”

His charities include the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, the Armed Forces Personnel Recovery Centre and the Edinburgh Taxi Trade Children’s Outing.

A former soldier with the Royal Engineers, Mr Gilzean faced Rommel’s Afrika Korps, the Imperial Japanese Army in Burma and Hitler’s Wehrmacht in France and Belgium.