Sheffield celebrates with 'Man with the Pram' John Burkhill for hitting “magic million” for Macmillan

John says he is not done with fundraising yet, and is going to go for another million.
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Celebrations have been held today for Sheffield’s ‘man with the pram’ John Burkhill, who hit his £1m fundraising target for Macmillan in May this year after fifteen years of pushing his pram around the city in his green wig.

The 84-year-old lost his wife June to cancer 16 years ago, a year to the day after the unexpected death of their daughter Karen. He has committed himself to fundraising to Macmillan ever since, taking part in over 1,000 races and walking the streets of the city - pushing his daughter Karen's old pram.

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At the celebration at Sheffield's Winter Garden today, John said: “People at Macmillan, they say to me, ‘well done John, you've done a million’, and I say ‘it's not me’. It's you that's done it, everybody. Everybody who comes past me and puts whatever they can afford in that bucket.

John Burkhill meets attendees at today's celebrationsJohn Burkhill meets attendees at today's celebrations
John Burkhill meets attendees at today's celebrations

"Now we've hit one million, we’ll go for another one. Why not? It's there," he said, gesturing at the pram. "We might not do it. But we’re going to have a go anyway. That’s a wonderful thing."

He bought his trusty pram for Karen in 1961, and says that having that with him, and June’s teddy bear on the front as he pounds the streets, makes it feel like they are still there with him. 

He added: "I’ll never part with that pram. Not for a million quid."

Crowds attended the Winter Garden to celebrate John today, August 17.Crowds attended the Winter Garden to celebrate John today, August 17.
Crowds attended the Winter Garden to celebrate John today, August 17.
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Anne Hunt, a friend of John’s who read an emotional poem at the ceremony, said: "The tragedy that he has had in his life is unbearable to some, but he made it positive. The million he’s made - how many collectors have raised a million? 

"He just kept at it, and never never complains. He walks so far, such a long way."

John has taken part in every half marathon in the city since 1982, fundraising for various causes, until 2007 when he committed solely to Macmillan. 

John and Anne, while she reads her poem "Man with the Pram".John and Anne, while she reads her poem "Man with the Pram".
John and Anne, while she reads her poem "Man with the Pram".

These have included Run For All events, part of the legacy of Jane Tomlinson’s, who passed away from an incurable cancer in 2007. She completed challenge after challenge to fundraise for charity, despite her diagnosis.

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Mike Tomlinson, Jane’s husband and a good friend of John’s, said: "What impresses me - it isn’t the money, that speaks for itself - it is the longevity, of keeping going for years and years. Time after time, John must feel ‘I've had enough, I’ve given everything I can’, but he still continues.

"I was kind of saddened when he got to a million, because I thought he’d give up. I should've known better."

John and Mike at today's ceremony.John and Mike at today's ceremony.
John and Mike at today's ceremony.

Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Colin Ross hosted the celebrations at the Winter Garden today, August 17, and presented John with various mementos including a personalised tankard.

Many previous Lord Mayors, who have worked with John, were also in attendance.

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Coun Ross said: "We wanted to do you proud today, John, and I think we have. You have raised all that money for a really good cause, the start of it in sadness. But it has been important to you and helped you, and you’re helping so many other people, and the people of Sheffield as well."

John and Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Colin Ross, who hosted the celebrations.John and Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Colin Ross, who hosted the celebrations.
John and Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Colin Ross, who hosted the celebrations.

He started off John’s second million, putting coins in the bucket, which was met with applause.

Mike added: "Imagine how many different people have put cash in that pram. He's not benefited from people giving him £1,000 quid on a card. It’s people chucking in a quid or 50p as they go past.

"There are people here who are going to way outlive John. But in fifty years, they’ll say, ‘remember the man with the pram?’, and that's what it’s all about. Congratulations John."

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Video tributes from Sheffield celebrities such as Dan Walker and BBC Radio Sheffield’s Tony Foster were played after the speeches.

John, in response to the ceremony, said: "I think this is the first time I’ve had tears in my eyes for a long, long time. What a wonderful tribute."

He was met with raucous applause and laughs from the crowd at the end of his speech, as he said: "I can’t put into words how I feel today. It’s wonderful that you’ve all turned out to do this. I’m lost for words.

"But one thing I will say is, before I started all these walks, I was six foot six."