A 104-YEAR-OLD woman has become the pride of the British Heart Foundation’s newly-reopened shops after raising more than £50,000 for the charity.

Joan Willet aimed to raise £500 by walking 17 miles up and down the hill outside her care home in Hastings.

After she raised tens of thousands of pounds through a six-week walking challenge, the British Heart Foundation has honoured Mrs Willet with special posters in its 750 shops across the country.

“Joan’s incredible efforts will help us fund more life saving research into heart and circulatory diseases,” the charity tweeted.

The Argus:

Mrs Willet, a former teacher, had life-saving valve replacement surgery after a heart attack when she was 82.

Since then, she has aimed to keep herself fit by walking up and down a steep hill near the care home where she has lived for more than two decades.

She decided to raise money for the British Heart Foundation by getting people to sponsor her walks ahead of her 104th birthday earlier this month.

The campaign was a soaring success, and as the donations flooded in, Joan’s image was broadcast over Piccadilly Circus and she appeared on national television.

She said she had been inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s efforts. The former British Army officer raised more than £32 million after completing 100 sponsored lengths of his garden.

Last week, Joan was given the chance to meet her hero on ITV’s Lorraine show. Speaking via videolink, Sir Tom said: “Well done Joan, you’ve done a very good job. Thank you very much and keep going.”

Joan was delighted with his message. Speaking on the programme just before their virtual meeting, she said she wanted to thank him. “It was because of his efforts that I started on my walk,” she said.

Joan, who lives at Old Hastings House residential home, said she had rewarded herself with chocolate every time she made it up the hill four times.

The Argus:

She said the campaign had brought out “the best of human nature”. Dozens gathered by the hill on Mrs Willet’s birthday to see her complete her challenge, presenting her with flowers, cards and cake to celebrate.

Mrs Willet said: “I am so grateful to the BHF and its research that made operations like mine possible.” You can still donate to her fundraiser at www.bhf.org.uk/joan