A hundred-year-old war hero has pledged to help future generations in one of London’s largest boroughs, with an appeal to help fund new play facilities for sick children at his local hospital.
Harry Winter is one of only five surviving members of the British Royal Air Force squadron who flew Halifax Bombers during World War II. He was shot down at night during his 19th mission in 1943 and was held as a prisoner of war until he escaped two years later.
Harry will turn 100 years old on Saturday 21 May and has requested no birthday presents. Instead, he has asked for donations to his local hospital charity to help fund much-needed play spaces and playgrounds at a brand new children’s unit to care for young people with cancer and other illnesses.
The Rainbow Children’s Unit at Croydon University Hospital is so much more than a medical ward, housing also a dedicated children’s cancer unit, surgical ward and state-of-the-art critical care facilities.
With the support of the Trust’s dedicated charity, the Croydon Health Charity, the ‘Power of Play’ aims to raise £150,000 to create new interactive play zones, provide toys and entertainment and fund sensory relaxation rooms for toddlers, children and teens alike, during some of the most difficult times in their lives.
Harry Winter said:
“I may not be as fast on my feet as I once was, but I know how important it is for kids to have fun. Especially when children are feeling poorly, knowing that doctors and nurses are able to give the best care in this brand new unit while donating just a few pounds can help to take the stress away for young people, can make a world of difference.”
Harry was one of the first people to visit the Rainbow Children’s Unit, which officially opened to patients on 10 May. Harry was given a VIP tour by Sarah McLaggan, Head of Nursing for Children’s Services at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust.
“Our children’s teams look after more than 50,000 young people every year, and our brand new unit means we can now care for even more of the borough’s sickest children much closer to home. It’s wonderful to have support from heroes like Harry who is still very young at heart and determined to help the people around him, as he has done so for a generation.”
The Surrey Freemasons have been helping the Croydon Health Charity to fundraise for the ‘Power of Play’ appeal. Over the past six months, they have generously raised more than £10,000 through golf days, darts evenings and book sales, with a pledge to achieve another £20,000 to the appeal.
Harry, who is a Freemason himself, has personally donated £1,000 towards their total. Commenting, Nick Gras, who is a member of the Executive Team heading Surrey Freemasons, said:
“We want to mark Harry’s very special day with as many Birthday cards from his friends and well-wishers in and around our community. Harry wants to make a difference and during his lifetime he has done just that; from working in a paper mill at age 14, to serving in the Home Guard before joining the Air Force. We will be celebrating Harry as he starts his next century year, but he has asked for no presents. Instead, just a card and giving what you can to a cause Harry cares so strongly about will make this proud war veteran a very happy man.”
When asked if the Queen will give to the Power of Play appeal, Harry adds:
“Just a card from Her Majesty on my 100th birthday would be an honour…but you never know!”
An online fundraising page has been set up for people to show their support for Harry and the Power of Play appeal at www.justgiving.com/page/harrywinterturns100.