Aged 100 is Not Too Old to Capitalize on Internet Fame

Explaining the Captain Tom phenomena in the UK

Mary DeVries

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Photo by David T on Unsplash

Captain Tom, a WWII veteran, skyrocketed to fame in the UK in the early days of the pandemic lockdown when a fundraiser he started caught the attention of the media and quickly went viral.

His idea was simple. In the lead up to his 100th birthday at the end of April he would walk 100 laps of his garden, 25 meters a lap, to raise money for the NHS, Britain’s National Health Service. The goal was £1000 donated to the NHS Charities Together.

Captain Tom takes off

Once the media caught wind of this unusual fundraiser, the attention on Captain Tom quickly skyrocketed. The sight of this plucky WWII vet with his walker slowly shuffling around his garden was like catnip to the media and to a country desperate for some feel-good news.

Captain Tom reached his initial goal of £1000 quickly and the numbers just kept rising. He reached 100 laps on April 16 with an honor guard from his former battalion in attendance at a safe distance and a nation watching via television.

Captain Tom vowed to do another 100 laps as the money continued to pour in. By the end of the day on his 100th birthday, the total raised was over £32,000,000, the equivalent of nearly 43 million US dollars.

Captain Tom soars

It is hard to overestimate how much attention Captain Tom’s enterprise gathered. On the day of his birthday, there were WWII fighter jet flybys.

Captain Tom remained modest. His motivations are quoted by the Army on its website:

Captain Tom said: “When we started off with this exercise, we didn’t anticipate we’d get anything near that sort of money. It’s really amazing. All of them, from top to bottom, in the National Health Service, they deserve everything that we can possibly put in their place. They’re all so brave. Because every morning or every night they’re…

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Mary DeVries

The older I get, the less I know. That won’t stop me from writing about everything and anything under the sun. Join me in delighting and despairing about life.