A WAR veteran who has become a familiar sight on the city’s streets has hit a remarkable £100,000 fundraising goal, but says he has no intention of hanging up his charity tin.
Tom Gilzean, 93, has raised £20,000 so far this year for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation through his well-known collections on the Royal Mile and Princes Street.
The feat brought the total amount raised for the charity, which provides state-of-the-art equipment and improves services for the Capital’s Sick Kids Hospital, to more than £100,000 since Tom started donating to the cause in 2008.
But despite achieving the landmark, which he has been working towards for years, Tom has said he has no intention of calling it a day – and even set a new goal of raising another £100,000 by 2018.
“I’m coming up for 94 so I’m not stopping now,” he said. “I’ll never stop. It’s very hard at my age, I’m out there all winter, but I don’t think about it – I just do it. When the good Lord takes me I’d like to be in my wheelchair raising money.”
The former sapper with the Royal Engineers, who saw action on the battlefields of Europe during the Second World War, supports several causes, also giving money to help injured soldiers, pensioners and disabled children. The £100,000 milestone he’s just reached relates to his fundraising for the Sick Kids – but he’s raised far more dosh for other causes.
The Sick Kids Friends Foundation has invited Tom on a tour of the hospital so he can see how the cash he raised has changed the lives of poorly children.
“I always thought if I could reach something like that [£100,000] for the Sick Kids it would be good, and I’m very proud,” Tom, of Peffermill, added. “To know I’ve raised £100,000 is quite an achievement for an old man just sitting there in all weathers.
“If I live another five years and raise another £100,000 I’ll be delighted. If it wasn’t for the people of Edinburgh I wouldn’t be where I am today, they help me as much as they can. I love my city and I love the people of Edinburgh, who are the salt of the earth.”
The projects that Tom’s donations have helped pay for include a new state-of-the-art gamma camera and a refurbishment of the hospital’s dining hall.
Maureen Harrison, the charity’s chief executive, described Tom as “an inspiration to us all”.
She said: “We’re delighted to receive the £100,000 donation from Tom. He has tirelessly campaigned in our name, and this fantastic sum is testament to his efforts. This staggering amount will go a long way in providing much-needed care for sick children in Edinburgh and further afield throughout Scotland. In recognition of his fantastic dedication, Tom was awarded a Lifetime Achievement accolade at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation Our Heroes Awards earlier in the year.”
Honoured with British Empire Medal
Dressing in full Highland regalia, Tom has captured the hearts of locals and tourists alike with his tireless fundraising. When his wheelchair was vandalised by thugs in May, the Evening News was inundated with offers of donations for a repair. However Poppy Scotland quickly agreed to pay for it.
Earlier this year he was honoured with a British Empire Medal, and also got a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.