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Coventry City FC gives hero’s welcome to fundraising great-grandad

A great-grandad who raised more than £10k for a Warwick charity on a year-round fundraising challenge, was given a special surprise courtesy of Coventry City Football Club.

Sky Blues fan Tony Cunningham caught the notice of the Championship side after walking more than ten miles a day around Coventry Memorial Park throughout 2022 for a local children’s charity.

The 73-year-old was invited to receive VIP treatment at the game against Norwich City last weekend when he was presented with a signed match ball by Man of the Match, City midfielder Kasey Palmer as part of a hero’s reception at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

Tony Cunningham and Kasey Palmer, Molly Ollys,Coventry City FC
Tony Cunningham receives a signed ball off Man of The Match Kasey Palmer

Tony, who underwent a quadruple heart bypass, missed only seven 6am starts on his walks for Molly Ollys last year, clocking up over 5,050 miles (around 10 million steps) on his laps around the park!

This means the intrepid fundraiser has 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 losing 4-2 to Norwich, Tony said: “Hospitality at Coventry City was an absolutely marvellous occasion. I was asked to go on the stage to be interviewed by the former Coventry player Brian Roberts, where I was presented with a football signed by the whole team, I had two ovations from the hundreds of spectators in the restaurant.

Tony Cunningham and Kasey Palmer, Molly Ollys,Coventry City FC, Gordon Strachan
Tony pictured with former Coventry City player and manager Gordon Strachan

“Later on we were joined by former Coventry manager and player Gordon Strachan and his wife and Gordon congratulated me on my fundraiser.

“Overall it was another day that I’ll never forget along with many other days connected to my fundraiser that have made the journey so memorable for me.”

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 last year.

The charity emotionally supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families by delivering wishes and by donating its Olly The Brave therapeautic toy lion and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

Molly Ollys, Coventry City Football Club, Tony Cunningham
Michael Reddy, Ryan Hobday, Tony Cunningham, Rachel Ollerenshaw and Tony’s last day of fundraising on New Years Eve

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Tony’s fundraising challenge for Molly Ollys has been phenomenal and it is great that people and organisations are recognising what a great achievement it is. A huge thank you to Coventry City for very kindly arranging this well deserved treat for Tony. We are so pleased for him and it is a lovely gesture from the club.”

Tony’s fundraising success story also appeared in the matchday program.

Dave Boddy, Chief Executive at Coventry City, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Tony as our guest against Norwich City. His year-long fundraising efforts for Molly Ollys have been fantastic, overcoming his own health issues to raise over £10,000 for a great cause, and we all congratulate him on his brilliant achievement.”

There is still time to sponsor Tony, until February 28th here