As the opera singer, waiting in the cold outside in an elegant black suit, beamed with a smile, the 100-year-old British Army veteran looked genuinely shocked, if not star-struck. “It’s… it’s Katherine Jenkins!” He was panting.
What thrilled him even more was that the sweetheart forces had brought along with his three young children who were so inspired by him that they launched their own fundraising campaigns during the lockdown.
She also brought another commendable achievement to add to her collection – a Special Recognition Award Daily Mirror Pride of Britain.
Due to social distancing, Katherine and the kids stayed outside while the nation’s favorite centenarian chatted with them as he sat in his kitchen as he was presented with his Daily Mirror Pride of Britain, in partnership with TSB.
But despite her disappointment at not being able to hug her favorite singer – she could only kiss him two meters away – Captain Tom couldn’t contain his excitement at the surprise, and another dream has come true.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed,” he said. “Last year we were watching Pride of Britain as a family and hearing about all these amazing people. Never in a hundred years had I anticipated that this award would ever be awarded to me.
“I have always had great pride in Britain, I am very proud to be British, and receiving a Pride of Britain award is truly exceptional.
Katherine gushed, “You deserve this award. You have inspired people in 144 countries around the world and raised £ 33million for the NHS. The whole country is proud of you.
But it was the young children who were so inspired by him that really touched Captain Tom.
Little Lewis Whele, five, Pepa Lorente, seven, and Imogen Papworth-Heidel, 11, each shared with him how his world-famous walk as he nears his 100th birthday had inspired them to do something to help the others too.
Lewis, who suffers from cerebral palsy, hiked 100 lengths of his garden, as did Captain Tom, dressed in 10 different superhero costumes, and raised £ 3,000 for the NHS Heroes charity.
He said, “Captain Tom made me think I could do it too. ”
Avid cyclist Pepa, from Croydon, south London, cycled 100 miles in 10 days, raising almost £ 2,000 to help the charity Action for Children provide food for families in need.
“When we were in lockdown, I thought of those moms or dads who couldn’t go to work and didn’t have the money to buy food for their kids,” she said.
Cambridge footballer Imogen decided she wanted to do a keepy-up for every key worker in the country.
“But I figured it would be 7.1 million goalies, and I would probably be older than you when I’m done,” she says. “So I’m doing 2,000 a day and I’m asking others to donate their keepers too.”
Along with players from her local Cambridge United football club as well as celebrities like comedian Russell Howard, she has so far raised over £ 2,000 for nine NHS charities.
The moment is one of the highlights of the Daily’s Mirror Pride of Britain Award 2020, in partnership with TSB, which will be shown Sunday at 9 p.m. on ITV.
After listening to their stories with passion, Captain Tom said: “I am absolutely amazed by these children. What you have accomplished is absolutely exceptional and I am delighted that you have been able to raise funds to help so many people.
“I am overwhelmed that I have inspired so many people to strive for the goodness of everyone.”
The three children also got a surprise: a special British pride medal to commemorate their incredible achievements. Tom also gave them each a copy of his children’s book, One Hundred Steps.
Finally, Captain Tom joined the kids for one more ride in his backyard, a very special keepsake for the kids who came home buzzed with excitement upon meeting their hero – and what they would say to their friends at school.
She later sent Captain Tom a collection of her DVDs, which he said he would “cherish and play over and over.”
He added, “Every time I see her photo on DVDs, I’m transported again to see Katherine out there on my patio.
“I saw her in concert about 15 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. She is a very beautiful lady with a wonderful voice.
“But to see her in the flesh like that, standing there, I didn’t expect. I was overwhelmed by it. I just wish I could have been a little closer to her and hold her hand. ”
He says he is planning a big party at his home in Bedfordshire as soon as the lockdown is over so he can properly meet everyone he has befriended this year.
He added: “There will be a lot of people. There are so many that I would love to hug and say ‘welcome’, and a lot of people that I now consider to be friends. I hope we can do it the sooner the better. ”
And leaving a message to Britons still struggling amid coronavirus restrictions, he said: ‘Be cheerful as things will get better eventually.
“I think tomorrow will be a good day. All my life I have been an optimist and I truly believe that eventually we will get through this lockdown, and like the song says, the sun will shine again and we will hear the sound of the lark again.
“Everything will be better, it really will be.”
- Don’t miss the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards 2020, in partnership with TSB, on Sunday, 9 p.m., ITV