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British World War II Veteran Walks For National Health Service, Raising $9 Million


More than $9 million - that is how much a 99-year-old British World War II veteran has raised to help health care workers in the U.K. as they grapple with COVID-19. And that veteran, Capt. Tom Moore, has done it using his feet and a walker with a little help from social media. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Capt. Tom Moore served during World War II in the campaign against the Japanese in India and Burma. These days, he shuffles along a red-brick walkway in his garden in Bedfordshire about 50 miles north of London. Moore does 10 laps a day to thank the country's National Health Service for treating his cancer and broken hip and to raise money. Initially, he hoped his sponsored walks would bring in $1,250. He never anticipated an outpouring like this.

TOM MOORE: It's absolutely awesome. It's almost unbelievable. That source of money - it's going to be - I mean, I've never certainly come across that sort of money before.

LANGFITT: The donations have poured in so quickly that Moore's page on JustGiving, a crowdfunding site, has crashed more than once. So far, more than 340,000 people have donated. The money will go to NHS Charities Together, which supports medical staff, volunteers and facilities.

MOORE: The money that people are giving is to give to the very brave front-line people who, every day, are putting themselves into danger. I think because of this worldwide, invisible enemy that we've got, everybody realizes that we're all going to have to put our best foot forward.

LANGFITT: British people love the NHS, but it's been underfunded by the government for years. During the coronavirus pandemic, some health care workers have had to scrounge for protective gear, resorting on occasion to trash bags. At least 46 staff have died from COVID-19. Moore's fundraising effort seems to have struck a nerve as it brings together two important sources of British pride and identity - the United Kingdom's victory in the Second World War and, as Moore's daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, explains, the NHS.

HANNAH INGRAM-MOORE: The added glue to this story is the fact that the British people feel so powerfully, strongly about our National Health Service. No matter how rich or how poor, you receive the same care.

LANGFITT: Capt. Moore had planned to walk a hundred laps before his 100th birthday on April 30. He says he's easily on track to meet that goal.

MOORE: My energy is great, and I shall certainly do the hundred. I shall do the hundred tomorrow.

LANGFITT: And Moore says he plans to keep on walking and keep the donations to British health care workers coming in.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.