A Co Armagh pensioner has been hailed as an inspiration, after completing his near year-long challenge to do 100 laps of Loughgall FC’s Lakeview Park stadium.
Hilbert Willis took up the challenge in August last year, inspired by the fund-raising efforts of Captain Sir Tom Moore in England, who raised over £32 million for NHS charities walking 100 lengths of his garden.
Raising money to help his much-loved football club Loughgall during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 97-year-old finished his 100th and final lap of the ground on Saturday to much celebration, as he was joined alongside by family and friends.
The remarkable achievement for the former club chairman was celebrated with a fireworks display, as those gathered heard about the man’s remarkable life as a farmer during his teenage years and his decades long service to the football club.
Mr Willis served the club as a groundsman for around 30 years and was then chairman for close to a decade.
The Championship club has faced hard times in the wake of Covid-19, and is carrying out work at Lakeview Park to bring it up to Premiership standard.
In celebration of Mr Willis’ achievements, the club announced one of the stands at Lakeview Park would be renamed.
“In honour of Hilbert’s amazing achievement and massive contribution to our club we are pleased to announce the Roadside Stand has been renamed The Hilbert Willis Stand,” they wrote.
“A small token of appreciation from the club to an incredible man.”
The fundraiser for his challenge has so far exceeded more than £12,000.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on laps 51 and 52 of his challenge back in September, the man himself explained his love for the football club.
“I was groundsman here for about 30 years and I was chairman for maybe 10 years. I’m doing this for the love of the club. I just love the place,” he said.
“I had about 46 laps done at one stage and I was told I was doing them too quick.
“There’s been some celebrities coming down with me and I have to do it with them.
“There’s no point in me doing the whole lot and then doing some extra ones when they come down.
“I got about £250 this week, so we’re really happy.
“I was lucky as well because we got a turn of the good weather.”