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Champion British Heart Foundation Fundraiser

2004. Joan Willett

Joan Willett, aged 106, from Hastings, has raised over £60,000 for the ‘British Heart Foundation’ to thank them for saving her life after a heart attack.

Inspired by previous Point of Light, the late Sir Tom Moore, Joan, a former teacher, used her daily exercise during the pandemic to walk the steep hill outside her care home four times a day, raising vital funds for life-saving ‘British Heart Foundation’ research by inspiring hundreds of people to donate.  Joan has herself received pioneering, life-saving heart surgery following a second heart attack more than 20 years ago.  Joan has also been involved in other local charity efforts, including centenary celebrations for an RNLI lifeboat in Sussex. She is described as a daily inspiration and beacon of light for staff and fellow residents at her care home and lives by the motto, ‘move it or lose it’. 

In a personal letter to Joan, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: 

“Following your lifesaving heart surgeries, you have found a wonderful way to give back to others and support a charity that means so much to you.

“Inspired by fellow centenarian, the late Captain Sir Tom Moore, your daily exercise has not only captured the imagination of your fellow care home residents – but inspired people from all across your community and far beyond.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said:

“Joan is such an exceptional person. Her incredible fundraising for the BHF during the pandemic touched all of our hearts and it’s just wonderful to see her recognised by the Prime Minister and Point of Light awards. 

“Having been a heart patient herself she knows just how important research is, and the £60,000 she raised will fund more research to help countless others live long and fulfilling lives – just like Joan.”

Joan, who is still walking daily – accompanied by a seagull she’s named Bertie says:

“It’s a huge surprise to receive this award from the Prime Minister and I feel very honoured and flattered, but I don’t think I have done anything special. During the pandemic I was inspired by watching Captain Tom to do my walk for the British Heart Foundation because thanks to their research I have been able to reach the age I am and still enjoy life. I’m also so grateful that I came to live at my care home after my second heart attack, because the staff are wonderful and have made sure that I keep my independence which is so important to me. My friend and carer here, Pauline, supported me all the way throughout …I never thought when I came to live here over 20 years ago I’d be famous!

“The best thing about all this – apart from raising the money to help others – was seeing how kind people have been – particularly friends and strangers from as far afield as Australia and Canada who supported me and donated. You only hear about the bad things in the world, but this has given me great faith in humanity.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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