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73-year-old great grandad’s hero welcome at end of year-round charity walking challenge

A 73-year-old great-grandad from Coventry who has smashed his personal target to walk ten miles a day throughout 2022 for a children’s charity, received a hero’s welcome after completing his last circuit of the city’s Memorial Park.

Tony Cunningham, who underwent a quadruple heart bypass, has now raised more than £10,000 for Warwick-based Molly Ollys by clocking up over 5,050 miles (around 10 million steps) on his early morning laps around the park!

And he was cheered on by family, friends and supporters, ahead of his final circuit on New Year’s Eve- followed by the weekly Park Run – introduced by Warwick’s Town Crier Michael Reddy.

This means the intrepid fundraiser has now travelled almost the equivalent distance of Coventry to Phoenix in Arizona – even overcoming health issues and the most extremes of weather conditions along the way.

Despite this Tony missed only seven 6am starts on the advice of doctors, insisting the charity cause as well as the support he received, made him determined to see the challenge through.

Molly Ollys, Tony Cunningham
 Tony sets off on the Park Run following his final walking laps around The Memorial Park

He said: “Several things keep me motivated. Most of all I don’t want to let down the children and their families who are helped by Molly Ollys.

He said: “Getting up at 5am and walking between 10 -and 18 miles a day every day is a challenge in itself, but the weather can make it even more so. Walking in arctic temperatures certainly takes its toll, but you can always add extra layers of clothing to keep you warm. By far the worst weather conditions I’ve encountered were the four named storms we had this year when I was soaked to the skin because once you’re drenched that’s the way you stay until you can get a hot bath and some dry clothes on.

“On the two days of extreme hot temperatures in the summer I was advised not to walk due to be classed as extremely vulnerable.

He added: “I missed seven days in the park, although I still walked some distance, on one occasion I was in hospital with suspected blood clots, and on another occasion I had a chest infection which I’m prone to. I said at the outset that I didn’t know if I could complete this challenge, I must confess to a sense of achievement.”

It’s the daily support that Tony most reflects on since completing his final lap on New Year’s Eve.

He was spurred on every day by the precious memory of his late wife Jackie of 47 years, who died of cancer last year.

“I feel like she has been with me in spirit throughout. I think it has surprised a lot of people that I’ve kept it up.”

As well as a sense of pride, Tony has forged new friendships and will look back on his year as one of the best adventures of his life. His most poignant memories include meeting three mums in the park whose children have had cause to be helped by the charity and bumping into two nurses at UHCW (University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire) who helped him through his own operation five years ago, Angie Cummings, who worked in ICU and Heidi Seidl, who was in the operating theatre.

Molly Ollys, Tony Cunningham, Jenny Suffield
 Tony receiving a framed drawing from Coventry artist Jenny Suffield

A special welcoming committee on Tony’s last day included family and friends, Warwick Town Crier and Coventry artist Jenny Suffield MA who was so inspired by Tony, a few weeks ago she created a special drawing in his honour.

Tony said: “The picture is now hanging up in my lounge at home. This, along with the friendships that I’ve forged and the memory of my final day are things I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

He added: “I had long suspected that my last day would be a day of mixed emotions, sad that it would finally be over, on the other hand a sense of achievement.”

But the great grandad of six admits to enjoying his new-found local celebrity status, elevated by year-long regional and national media coverage.

Warwick-based Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marked its tenth anniversary this year.

The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It helps with emotional support and donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

Molly Ollys, Tony Cunningham
 Friends, family and supporters gathered for Tony’s final day

Rachel said: “What an truly amazing man Tony is! He is a man of his word and once he committed to doing this huge challenge, there was no way he was going to miss a day – unless he was ill! He is an extraordinary person who is determined to make a difference. The money he has raised will make such a difference to the families that we support.”

There is still time to sponsor Tony, until January 31st, at:

To find out all the ways you can donate to Molly Olly’s Wishes, visit