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Fundraising feet: Capt. Tom’s legacy lives in 11-year-old

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 3, 2021

By Danica Kirka Associated Press

LONDON – The legacy of Capt. Tom Moore, the super fundraiser who died Tuesday of COVID-19, lives on in Imogen Papworth-Heidel – and many others.

The 11-year-old soccer player, who dreams of playing for England, watched Capt. Tom pushing his walker up and down his garden to raise money for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and was inspired.

So she decided to help by doing something she’s good at: keepy uppies – juggling a soccer ball with both feet, not the hands, without letting it touch the ground.

Imogen was able to raise $20,500 for key workers keeping hospitals open, streets safe and trains running while everyone else stays home to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“I wanted to do something to help as well to raise money, so I did this,’’ she told the Associated Press from her home in Framlingham in southeastern England. “I chose to do 7.1 million – one for every single key worker in the whole of the country.”

Capt. Tom, a World War II veteran recovering from a broken hip, set out to raise 1,000 pounds ($1,400) by walking 100 laps of his back garden before his 100th birthday last April. Three weeks later, he had raised 33 million pounds ($45 million) for Britain’s NHS after his quest cheered a nation in lockdown and triggered donations from around the world.

But he also made a broader impact as his simple challenge – to do whatever you can to help others – persuaded the young it’s never too soon to start, and the old that it’s never too late.

Take Margaret Payne, 90, who walked up the stairs in her home 282 times to raise over $560,000 for the NHS. Payne, from Ardvar in the Scottish Highlands, calculated that the feat was the equivalent of climbing 731 meters (2,398 feet), or the height of Suilven, one of Scotland’s best known mountains that she scaled when she was 15.

And then there’s Tony Hudgell, a 5-year-old who lost both legs after being abused as a baby, set out to walk 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and raise 500 pounds ($631) for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. After completing the challenge in a series of daily walks he had attracted more than $1.36 million of donations.

“Captain Sir Tom inspired so many people to take on their own extraordinary challenges, from running marathons to swimming lakes, and he gave us all hope,” said Ellie Orton, chief executive of the NHS Charities Together, using the honorific Capt. Tom earned when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

“He showed NHS patients and staff, who were struggling, that people cared, that they were looking out for them and doing what they could to support them.”

In the end, Imogen needed a little help to complete her challenge.

After realizing it might take her a long time on her own, she found other people who did keepy uppies and donated them to her via video so she could reach her target – and every key worker could have their very own.

“People did 6 million keepy uppies in total and I did 1.1 million,” she said. “It’s just really amazing how many people donated and spent their time actually doing the keepie uppies. I’m really grateful for that.”

Unlike many of those inspired by Capt. Tom, Imogen managed to get an audience with her hero. Capt. Tom told Imogen that her challenge was “cool.” She melted.

“I probably learnt to keep on going and not to give up halfway through something … to persevere through it, like going out when it’s raining, or it’s really, really hot,” Imogen said of the experience. “And I now believe that I can do what I want if I know I can do it and I have the right mindset.”

She also got more accuracy and control of the ball, which is likely to help that national team goal.

Thanks to Capt. Tom.

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