At 86 years’ old, John Wilkins is no ordinary Grandfather. Over the last 16 years, the Clevedon-based daredevil and The Grand Appeal skydiving team have raised nearly a staggering £300,000 for Bristol Children’s Hospital. In 1996, almost a year after The Grand Appeal was founded, John undertook his first skydive for the charity, going on to jump over 40 more times and to recruit 500 fellow skydivers from his stall in Bristol Children’s Hospital Reception, where he has volunteered for over 20 years.
John faced stiff competition from hundreds of nominations across the South West, but was chosen as the region’s Pride of Britain ITV Fundraiser of the Year. Lucky John was a guest at the star-studded ceremony in October, and rubbed shoulders with celebrities and even royalty, meeting Prince William!
John said: “I couldn’t be happier and I still can’t quite believe I’m a finalist, to be honest! I have two Grandkids, and so raising money for sick children through The Grand Appeal is what this is all about. I don’t think I’m done with the skydiving yet either!”
Ben Smith, ITV West Country Pride of Britain Judge added: "John is the definition of a fundraiser. At 86 years old to be throwing himself out of a plane, to be four days a week on a stall, just driving up the front line. I think for all of us judges, he was the clear winner."
We are absolutely over the moon that John has been recognised for his remarkable work –and we are confident that our fundraising superhero isn’t going to pack up his parachute just yet. If you see John on the stall in the hospital reception, pop over to say congratulations. But be warned… he may try to recruit you for a skydive!