Airman Ron out in force for Canterbury rescue helicopters

Airman Ron is getting back out in the community to fundraise for Canterbury rescue helicopters.

But he will not be walking 90km like he did in 2022. Instead, he will be collecting funds outside Halswell and Wigram New Worlds, in participation with the Westpac and Roa Mining rescue helicopters.

Ron Towner, 91, gained the nickname ‘Airman Ron’ two years ago when he raised $91,000 while walking 90km in the area around his home before his 90th birthday.

He received national recognition for his efforts and appeared on TV show Seven Sharp.

Ron was inspired to take up the challenge after one of his friends noticed him going on daily walks.

She said he looked like Captain Tom Moore, a retired British Army officer who, in 2020, raised more than £32.79 million (NZD$60 million) for the National Health Service while walking 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday.

The Canterbury rescue choppers’ latest campaign, which will be held in August, is called Back to Base.

The now 91-year-old encourages retirees to take part.

“I think you need to be doing something when you’re old, rather than just sitting around,” he said.

Participants can choose from four distances – 9km, 49km, 97km, and 155km – and can complete their chosen distance through walking, running, riding or skiing, all while gaining sponsors.

The distances reflect the regular routes the air rescue service takes around Canterbury.

Back to Base Crew chief Rick Knight said the challenge is about getting fit and boosting mental well-being, while directly supporting the critical training and equipment the rescue helicopters depend on. 

“Whether it’s hitting the gym, the golf course, or the great outdoors, this challenge is a chance to push limits and show creativity.

“Our message is to sign up, start training, seek sponsorship, and support the crew to get Back to Base in August,” Knight said.

Participants who fundraise more than $100 will receive a free medal to mark their achievement.

Ron served for the Royal Air Force in England from 1948 to 1951.