He’s met the Queen, carried the Olympic torch and is familiar to thousands of Sheffield folk.
But John Burkhill – known to all as the Mad Man With The Pram – is no ordinary famous face.
The 75-year-old spends his life walking.
Up hills and across the city, in pouring rain or blazing sunshine, without any personal benefit, he walks to reach the ‘impossible dream’ of raising £1 million for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Inspirational John has helped to change the lives of many, not least by raising £250,000 and counting, but also by taking his work into schools and hospitals.
And that’s why The Star has chosen him as the subject of a special video to mark Local Newspaper Week, which this year has the theme of making a difference.
We followed John – pushing his well-worn pram and wearing his popular green wig – on to the streets of Sheffield to ask people what they thought of Sheffield’s ultimate charity champion.
Former cancer patient Marion Ingle said: “I think he is brilliant, I really do. I have had cancer myself so I know what goes on and he is marvellous.
“He has been doing it for such a long time.”
Staff at Greggs bakery on Pinstone Street regularly give John a hot drink or pasty to keep him fuelled and praised their favourite customer.
Pensioner William Hawcroft is John’s biggest supporter after donating two £5,000 cheques to the cause.
He said: “He got me to do that because I have been watching John for ages and I realised he was one of the few who was genuine about what he did.
“That’s why I gave it to him.”
Others said he was ‘part of the city’ and ‘deserved everything that he gets’.
Former Lord Mayor of Sheffield Alan Law said: “What a terrific man and a terrific advert for Sheffield.”
Weston Park Cancer Hospital is one place which sees the benefit of John’s work come to life.
An expansion of the day case unit and building of the hospital’s new cancer research facility are examples of what can be achieved with fundraising. Macmillan also funds specialist cancer nurses in Sheffield.
Ian Scott, general manager of specialised cancer at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “John has tirelessly raised funds for cancer patients for many years now and his kindness continues to make an invaluable difference.”
Macmillan knows that John is a once-in-a-lifetime asset for the charity.
Rob Turner, fundraising manager for Sheffield and Chesterfield, said: “I have never known anybody like John.
“What many people really don’t see is not only does he raise such a fantastic amount of money, he also inspires people to help the charity.
“To me he is an inspiration and a legend.”
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