John gets standing ovation at panto - oh yes he does

GREENrc''John Burkhill
GREENrc''John Burkhill

SHEFFIELD fundraising champion John Burkhill - the ‘Man with the Pram’ - got a standing ovation at the City Hall in recognition of him being awarded the British Empire Medal.

Honoured for more than 20 years of tireless campaigning for Macmillan Cancer Support, he was invited to Manor Operatic’s performance of Aladdin.

John said: “I had been out with my pram as usual, and they wanted me to go to Aladdin. They made an announcement and had me up on stage at the end of the performance and 1,000 people gave me a standing ovation. It was unbelievable, and it will live with me forever. They also made a lot of donations.”

John Burkhill, who is famous for his pram, giant foam hand and bright green wig, started fundraising after losing his wife, June, to cancer, then daughter Karen a year later during a routine operation.

A familiar sight on city streets, he has taken part in almost 900 races, including the London Marathon 22 times.

The BEM, for charitable services, tops a momentous year for John, who lives in the Richmond area.

In June he was chosen to carry the 
Olympic Torch as it passed through 
Chapeltown, and in the autumn he was nominated to represent Yorkshire in the Pride 
of Britain awards.

He joined the Great North Run this year, and true to form he walked to Newcastle pushing his pram all the way.

John couldn’t believe it when he received the letter about the BEM. “I am not ashamed to say I cried when I read it - to think the great citizens of Sheffield think so much of a crazy old man who pushes a pram for thousands of miles all over the place.

“We have got the best people in England here in Sheffield. I know because I have met them. They think I’m crackers in the best possible way.”

There is no holding him back. Tomorrow (Friday), on his 74th birthday he will retrace the route of The Star Walk, from the city centre to Hillsborough athletics track, one that he followed 30 times. The race stopped after 74 years.

He is also preparing to walk 1,000 miles between branches of Boots as he aims to reach his fundraising target of £250,000, having already passed the £150,000 mark.

“We’ll get there alright. The people of Sheffield will make sure of it.”

The BEM was awarded to Malcolm Torry, of Whirlow, for services to sailing and people with disabilities through Carsington Sailability in Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Malcolm fell off a stepladder 12 years ago and broke his back. “In hospital I realised I was lucky,” he said.

“I’d been sailing for years so started going to Carsington to help.

“I enjoy what I do. I get a lot of kids in wheelchairs, and they get in a boat and are independent, in control again.”

Christopher Sellars, of Owlthorpe, received the BEM for services to swimming coaching in Derbyshire.