The release included a photograph of the 99-year-old man wearing a navy blue fleece, pushing a walking frame on which was balanced a Panama hat and his stick. “We are all rightly advised to stay home, stay safe and protect our NHS, and that is exactly what Tom Moore, 99, does,” began copying – and with her , one of the most surprisingly successful fundraising stories of our time.
How a centenary managed to capture the heart of a nation – causing an RAF overview, an improvement in its military rank and Piers Morgan pledging to pay ten thousand dollars of his own money, not to mention a range of conspiracy theories – is a tale that proves both the constant power of the mainstream media and the thirst for joy of the British public in this time of grim national crisis.
The attack on the world media has started in Milton Keynes, where the press release caught the eye of Damien Lucas, head of news for a group of local newspapers. Within hours, the story was on Bedford Today, with a headline about the ambitions of a “Bedford man” and his 100th birthday challenge, inspired by the treatment he received from the NHS after breaking the hip and for skin cancer.
A local ITV report followed and on April 10, Good Friday, Captain Tom was live on BBC Breakfast. “You have lived, and you have experienced difficult times in this country, can you inspire the people who are watching now, reassure them, it will be okay? Asked Naga Munchetty. “Remember,” he said, “tomorrow is a good day, tomorrow you may find that everything will be much better than today. “
A star is born. The BBC Breakfast team watched in amazement as donations to Captain Tom’s Just Giving Page increased from £ 1,000 to a million and beyond. Shortly after, their Good Morning Britain rivals picked up the story, with Piers Morgan pledging £ 10,000 of his own money.
Back in Marston Moretaine, a small village 19 km from Milton Keynes, journalists and supporters began to gather in front of the house that Captain Tom shares with Hannah and his family, in the hope of seeing their hero make his turns.
On April 16, Moore ended his challenge live on BBC Breakfast, surrounded by an honor guard from the 1st Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. By April 20, he had raised more than £ 20 million and recorded a duet with Michael Ball who was poised to become number one on the charts.
The family began to worry about the crowd outside the house. A neighbor got a number for DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles to see if he could help. Hannah, a big fan of DIY SOS, sent a text message asking if it was really Nick Knowles. He suggested a Facetime call to prove his identity and had quickly arranged for a fence to be erected outside the family garden, according to Megan Carver, longtime PR of Knowles.
Carver came on board last week to respond to field inquiries free of charge. One of his first calls was to Schillings, London’s famous defamation firm, famous for its exorbitant fees and celebrity clientele. “It was probably the simplest phone call I have ever made,” said Carver. “I explained that Captain Tom’s family needed a little help and Schillings immediately said yes, and of course it will be pro bono. “
Schillings contacted Ipso, the press regulator, to ask reporters to stop “either leaning over the fence or placing their long-lens cameras through hedges to take intrusive photos” , noting that the family had created a Twitter account, @captaintommoore, containing images that could be used for free.
Then came the backlash. The family had to refute allegations that she or Maytrix benefited from the fundraiser. A virulent message from Whatsapp had spread, claiming that they were taking their pockets and accusing JustGiving, the fundraising platform, of keeping up to £ 2 million. Full Fact, the independent fact-finding charity, said JustGiving actually took about 1% of the total: about £ 320,000 of the £ 32 million pledged late Thursday afternoon for NHS Charities Together.
Back in the village, the family could no longer cope with the deluge of cards and gifts from around the world. Bill Chandi, the local postmaster, stepped in to help, offering his post office as a mailing address. “Since then, I have been working 24/7 and it is an honor to do so,” said Chandi.
The Bedford school, where Captain Tom Benji’s grandson is a student, donated his classroom to house the maps. On Thursday, they also spilled over into the classrooms. “He has already received at least 160,000 cards,” said Chandi. “A lot of people want to make sure they’re in the right place so they can send registered items, which means we have to register them all at the post office – we don’t sign for them because of the distance social. ” The local sorting office had to set up a separate “Captain Tom” team with two or three dedicated employees, he added.
On Thursday, Captain Tom became Colonel Tom, promoted to an honorary post by the British army. Boris Johnson wished him a happy birthday, the Queen sent him his usual telegram and a Spitfire and a wartime hurricane flew over Marston Moretaine.
He was the perfect hero of our time, says BBC Breakfast editor Richard Frediani. “Captain Tom is by no means self-centered or grand. He’s just a wonderful man. You can say it touched the nerves of viewers when they are looking for something to rally. It brings some good news and light on very difficult times. “