Retired nurse to complete 102nd charity walk on her 102nd birthday

A retired nurse is to complete her 102nd charity walk on her birthday, as she turns 102.

During lockdown Joan Rich set a goal to walk 102 laps of her local park before her 102nd birthday on 11 September.

Taking inspiration from Captain Sir Thomas Moore’s, the former auxiliary nurse and World War II veteran aims to raise money for the NHS, where she worked for much of her life.

The walk isn’t easy, Joan uses her frame or pushes her wheelchair to complete a 560-metre path from her home in Felixstowe in Suffolk, around Allenby Park, and back.

She has already completed 101 laps and raised more than £23,000 for NHS charities.

Joan was one of the first people to visit the park when it reopened in April after shutting because of the pandemic.

A local resident had mowed ‘NHS’ into one of the lawns during lockdown and it inspired Joan to complete the challenge.

‘I wanted to do my bit for them,’ says Joan.

‘The only way I can help is by walking, like Sir Tom. I hope it makes a difference.’

Her daughter Diane Rich, who accompanies Joan on the walks, set up a JustGiving page to accept donations for the epic challenge.

With more than £23,000 given so far, they hope a final surge in donations will mark the last walk.

‘She has walked over 35 miles,’ Diane explains.

‘She has been very humbled by the support she has had from neighbours, friends and strangers.

‘She says no matter how big or small, all donations add up to help raise money for the NHS.’

The park is an old favourite of Joan’s. When she was a nurse at Felixstowe General Hospital between 1964 and 1978, she sometimes had to go to the park during shifts to find patients who had absconded from the hospital.

Joan also worked at Hillingdon Hospital in west London before moving to Felixstowe in 1964.

During the World War II, she served with the Royal Military Police and was stationed in Jerusalem where she helped prisoners of war return to health before being sent home to their families in the UK – including a member of her local bicycle club in Ipswich who was captured at the start of the war.

While stationed in Jerusalem, she lived close to another Allenby Park – spending more than half of her life visiting parks with the same name.

Joan, who was born in Meriden in the West Midlands during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, said the sense of community spirit during the recent lockdown had reminded her of war time.

Kids from the area have put pictures and signs in their front windows encouraging Joan to reach the finish line.

Raising a phenomenal amount of money on your 102nd birthday most definitely calls for a double celebration.

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