The 80-year-old has been a familiar figure on the streets of the city over the last three decades with his bright green wig and fundraising pram.
He has now been awarded the city’s highest honour for raising as much as £750,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
The Handsworth man joins only a handful of people to have been given the honour, which includes Olympic gold medalist Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.
John said: “It is a great honour, I never believed it would happen to me.
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“I want to say thank you to the people of Sheffield.”
Councillor Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “I am thrilled to grant the freedom of the city of Sheffield to John Burkhill.
“He is a true reflection of Sheffield’s spirit and makes us all feel very proud. Today the city is recognising his enormous contribution by awarding him the right to walk wherever he wants - the freedom of the city.
“This seems particularly fitting given that over the years John has walked through hundreds of the city’s streets fundraising.
“On behalf of everyone at Sheffield City Council, it is my pleasure to bestow this award in recognition of his fantastic efforts.”
John, who lost both his wife and daughter to cancer, has taken part in more than 1000 organised races.
The Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by the council upon a valued member of the community, or upon a visiting celebrity or dignitary.
Although the title of ‘freeman’ confers no special privileges, it will allow John the freedom to parade through the city and is a very public recognition of his years of charity fundraising.