A bereaved dad and husband is on his way to raising a million pounds for charity – by pushing his daughter’s pram to collect donations.
John Burkhill, now 83, lost both his daughter Karen, 29, and wife June 55, a year apart in the early 1990s.
He then made it his mission to start raising money for charity after retiring 15 years ago – and has since amassed a staggering £842,941.
June died after suffering from breast cancer and Karen passed away due to complications from minor surgery.
So John, from Sheffield, is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support – and collects money in a pram.
The hero has been celebrated for his efforts over the years, and even carried the Olympic torch in 2012 as it passed through his city.
Just this week John has been given a BBC Make a Difference Award.
But he is showing no signs of slowing down, and says he is determined to reach his “magic million”
John said: “I remember when twins came up to me and stuck a few coins in and said ‘this is for my grandad, I know you’ll save him for us’ to me.
“Their dad explained their grandad had terminal cancer, which shows I’ve got to carry on no matter what.
“I’m not ashamed to admit that brought a tear to my eye.”
John started his fundraising mission after unexpectedly losing his daughter, Karen, in 1991, followed by his wife, June, the next year.
The day after June died, John’s grandson, Daniel, was born.
John said: “It was heartbreaking. June never got to meet him. I think Karen’s death caused my Mrs’ death – the shock.”
From this moment on, John started fundraising for various charities on his weekends off.
And, after he retired as a lorry driver in 2007, he decided to fundraise full-time for Macmillan.
He has walked a total of 1030 races with the pram – including marathons and Great North Runs.
He said: “I keep going by rubbing some WD-40 and bread and dripping onto my knees. I walk most days with my pram, in the market and that, and it keeps me going.”
Deborah Jackson, 49, runs Beer Central in Sheffield’s Moor Market with her husband and often collects money from donators when John is not around.
Her mum, Joan, passed away in January 2021 at the age of 68 from cancer, and she praises John for his work.
She said: “We all think it’s brill and everyone in Sheffield knows him. He’s out in all weather, and it’s just amazing.
“When we cleared out my mum’s house, we found a jar full of coppers and gave it all to John.
“We wanted to help in any way we could.”
The pram is full of souvenirs from his fans, such as a Scottish bear from when he raced in Glasgow and children’s toys that the Sheffield community has gifted.
The most precious item to John on the pram is a bear at the front, Biggles, which belonged to his wife.
He said: “She drives the pram, not me. I don’t know where I’m going, and she just directs me, and it’s all down to her.”
John is so committed to raising the money he even walked around Sheffield in his shorts and trademark wig on Christmas Day 2021 in the snow and managed to raise £1000.
He often collects money at both of Sheffield’s football grounds, and he said despite a divide in the city, depending on which team you support, his fundraising brings everyone together.
One of his most memorable moments was when he walked the Sheffield marathon and a young girl thanked him for all his work.
He said: “Laurie, a little lass, came up to me about two or three miles in with a bag of pennies.
“She stood there putting them in one by one while saying, ‘Thank you for everything you do, Mr Green Man.’”
The man with a pram explained that “it meant a million” and the small donations mean the world to him.
John has also been commended by the royal family for his fantastic fundraising efforts.
He said: “The Queen is a nice lass. I know I’m crackers with my wig and that and I could tell the queen thought I was barmy”.
He also met Prince Charles at a garden party in 2006 and recalled sneaking in one of his iconic green wigs behind his back in an attempt to put one on Charles’ head.
John has received many awards for his efforts, and in 2021, a documentary was even made about his life.
The fundraiser was chosen to receive the British Empire Medal for his services to charity in 2013, and a second bar for the medal was awarded to John in 2021.
This week, he has been nominated for a BBC Make a Difference award.
He said: “It’s a great honour, and for everyone that’s nominated – win or lose – we’re all winners.
“The Pride of Britain is what I want the most. That’s what I’m aiming for. But it’s not all about that.
“I just want to raise the money.”
John’s fundraiser is now online. To donate, follow this link: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/madwalker.