At 100 years old, most people might be trying to take it easy, but one London Ont., man is turning the momentous milestone into an opportunity to help.
Tom Hennessy, 100, is trying to show people you are never too old to make a difference.
To mark his milestone birthday, the Royal Canadian Air Force veteran and former Spitfire pilot is walking 100 miles to try to raise $100,000 for homeless veterans.
Two months ago, Hennessy read an article about homeless veterans and took it as a personal challenge.
“The very last line said, ‘and so we’ve got to do something.’ So I said to my partner, Joy, I got it — now I know what I could do for a 100-year-old,” Hennessy said.
“This is what we’re doing, and we’re inviting whoever wants to help us, help the veterans. I know there are other homeless people, and they need help, but if we can help the veterans completely, so much the better.”
For what led to this moment, he says it all comes back to being on a hospital ship in the English channel and realizing the Second World War was over.
“It was dark, and I was up on the deck, and I looked over to the right, and the lights were on and in France, and then I looked to the left, and that was England, the lights were on. I thought, oh wow, it’s over, it’s over, and I’ve got through it somehow,” he said.
“But then it just started coming that Jack didn’t come back, and Bill didn’t come back, and Jake didn’t come back, and my brother didn’t come back, and I began to stand there, and I thought, but I come back. So the seeds of kind of gratification came that I’d made it.
“Those seeds of gratification have kind of stayed with me all my life.”
Hennessy turned 100 on May 31, 2022, and is calling his fundraiser his Walk of Gratitude, walking a little but more every day until he reaches 100 miles.
Already walking 95 miles, he plans to finish his 100-mile walk in London’s Victoria Park on Canada Day.
On Tuesday, Hennessy was in Victoria Park to mark 95 miles and raise awareness about his fundraiser. Among those who showed up to support him were a group of veterans and first responders.
Veteran Joey Dimauro served in the second battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He and his fellow service members are also working to raise funds for the Royal Canadian Legion to help in their effort to end veteran homelessness.
He said they wanted to come and show their support when they heard that Tom was also helping raise money for the same cause.
“It makes me think of gratitude. Be grateful. I’m grateful at 48 that I can still run around with a 100-pound rucksack on, and I hope to get to 100 and still be able to help people and help our community,” Dimauro said.
People wanting to support Hennessy’s Walk for Gratitude can do so through their GoFundMe.
All of the money raised through GoFundMe will then be donated to the Royal Canadian Legion to help with their program to address veterans’ homelessness.