Flypast honours 101-year-old B.C. veteran’s COVID-19 fundraising efforts
OAK BAY -- In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, 101-year-old Second World War veteran John Hillman has captured the attention of people across B.C.
On Friday, pilots from "Yak Flight," based at Victoria International Airport, took to the skies as a tribute to the Second World War aviator, who has been raising money for COVID-19 relief efforts.
To date, Hillman has raised more than $137,000 for Canadian children affected by the coronavirus pandemic by attempting to walk 101 laps around his Oak Bay retirement home.
For one of the formation flyers, it was a way to say thank you from one pilot to another and to make a contribution during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm inspired by the whole generation to tell the truth. You know that they went through," said pilot Chris Walker.
"What we are seeing today is just a small snippet of the life that they led and what they had to go through during the Second World War."
The four Chinese-built Nanchang aircraft took off from the airport and flew over the Carlton House retirement home in Oak Bay, just as Hillman was finishing lap 95 of his 101 lap goal. Being honoured by other aviators was not only a surprise; it was a humbling moment for the RAF veteran.
"It just came out of the blue and it was wonderful," said Hillman. "I wished I was up there."
The meaning and the spirit of the flyover wasn't lost on the supporters of the Oak Bay senior, who has raised nearly $138,000 for Save the Children Canada.
"The flyover was a perfect tribute to a man who inspires every one of us," said Carlton House community relations manager Shelley De Hoog.
Hillman launched his fundraising campaign earlier this month. The veteran's efforts were inspired by the story of Capt. Tom Moore, a 100-year-old veteran in England who set out to do 100 laps of his garden for charity.
Hillman's original plan was to do five laps per day, but after seeing the response his campaign received, he's upped that daily total to 10, in hopes of reaching his goal faster. Hillman reached his goal to raise $101,000 after walking only 25 laps of the courtyard in front to of his home at Carlton House.
Hillman was born in South Wales in 1919. At the age of 17, he joined Britain’s Royal Air Force in 1937. Like Moore, Hillman wears the Burma Star, a medal awarded to those who served in Britain's Burma campaign during the Second World War.
"I hope to give recognition to that generation and hopefully inspire other people to help out during this crisis in whatever way they can," said Walker.
On Saturday, Hillman plans to take the final five laps of the Carlton House courtyard to reach his 101 lap milestone. The total amount of money he will ultimately raise for Save the Children Canada when he crosses that finish line is yet to be determined. One thing is certain, he will have raised more for the charity than his original goal of one thousand dollars for each of his 101 years.