Christchurch 89yo following in footsteps of Captain Tom

Ron Towner, 89, was on his morning walk around the streets near his home in Halswell when a neighbour Pauline Scott spotted him.

"He was walking along there as he does every day and I thought, my word, he reminds me of Captain Tom," Scott said.

"So when he came across the street, I mentioned it to him and that's how it all started."

What started was the ex-Royal Air Force airman following in the footsteps of the famous Captain Tom Moore, an ex-British Army officer who raised almost NZ$60 million for the UK’s NHS by walking lengths of his backyard during the lockdown.

“And that's when I got the idea. There was a lady in The Star asking for money for the (Westpac Chopper) appeal. So I phoned them up and they loved the idea and off we went,” Towner said.

Towner said he was inspired by Moore's efforts and so started his 90-day effort to raise money for charity.

His charity of choice was aviation-related.

Ron Towner walking the streets of halswell. Photo: John Cosgrove
Ron Towner walking the streets of halswell. Photo: John Cosgrove
Towner said he wants to raise $90,000 for the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust.

So for 90 days, he plans to keep walking every day until his 90th birthday at the end of July.

He’s already been seen out on the streets around his Halswell home, clocking up the miles, which is not bad for an 89-year-old stroke victim who is also suffering from degenerative lung disease.

Towner served in the RAF in the UK and when his daughter moved to New Zealand, he and his wife followed later to be near their grandchildren.

The former retailer and businessman said he walks to keep mobile and has been surprised by the response with people he doesn’t even know contributing to his cause.

“Some people driving past just pull over when they see me and give me money, others I barely know have gone out of their way to help me, it’s been great - and I thank them all.”

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust chief executive Christine Prince said Ron was inspirational.

"He’s got a few things going on at this moment, but he is battling on day to day, and is determined to do this," Prince said.

"He’s saying to other people, if you can do something, then just go out and do something and it can be for a good cause,” she said.

Towner's fundraising walk coincides with the national Westpac Chopper Appeal.

Each year the trust needs to raise $6 million to support the delivery of the rescue helicopter service to its communities.

In 2021, the Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter responded to 731 emergency medical dispatches across the region, a 30 per cent increase in mission numbers over the last two years, and this number is on the rise in 2022 with more than 1000 recorded so far this year.

Donate to the appeal here.

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