A 5-year-old boy with prosthetic legs has raised over £1.2 million -- about $1.6 million -- for the London hospital that saved his life, by walking 8 miles over several weeks.
Tony Hudgell nearly died as a newborn after enduring abuse at the hands of his biological parents. At just 41 days old, he suffered multiple fractures and dislocations leading to organ failure, and was put on life support upon arrival at Evelina London Children's Hospital, government records show. Two years later, both of his legs had to be amputated due to the severity of those injuries.
Through it all the toddler persevered as a bright and happy youngster full of life, his adopted mother Paula Hudgell explained.
"He became a part of our family and we fell in love with him instantly," Paula said.
Once Tony's damaged limbs were surgically removed, he received plastic socket stumps to encourage him to learn how to walk using prosthetics. It was a difficult task.
"He was never interested in them," Paula Hudgell said. "They were cumbersome and very uncomfortable to use."
In February, the stumps were replaced with plastic feet. For the first time, Tony could choose a pair of shoes to wear -- an incentive his mom said marked a turning point. His parents challenged him to walk every day of June and set up a fundraiser for Evelina London -- which his mom described as his "second home" -- to further encourage the youngster.
But Tony's biggest inspiration came after watching "Captain Tom" Moore, a 100-year-old war veteran who raised nearly $40 million for the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) by walking 100 laps around his backyard with a walker, on TV. Suddenly the 5-year-old seemed determined to complete his own walking challenge.
"Tony kept saying, 'I can do that, I can walk,'" Paula Hudgell said. "'He's got something just like me, I can walk like that.'"
Tony began walking with his parents and siblings around his neighborhood in West Malling, England. Word spread about the young amputee's goal, and people would come by to cheer him on as he walked the same daily route through a grassy field. He received messages of support from a number of British celebrities, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, former Prime Minister David Cameron and soccer star César Azpilicueta.
Tony walked longer and faster with each trek, ending with a celebration on June 30.
"Our community really rallied behind him," Paula Hudgell said. "The last day some of the doctors and nurses who took care of him at the hospital came to cheer for him, all while trying to be careful with social distancing. It was a very emotional day."
Tony started out with a goal of walking 6 miles and raising a few hundred pounds. Instead he shattered that number, raising £1.1 million -- or $1.4 million -- in a month.
But Tony wasn't done yet; his mom said he's kept on walking every day and the donations have kept flooding in. As of Tuesday, he had strolled over 8 miles and raised £1.2 million or about $1.6 million.
"Tony is a true inspiration," said Caroline Gormley, associate director of fundraising at Evelina London. "We really can't thank Tony, as well as everyone who has supported him, enough."
Gormley said that the money raised will go toward supporting children with "complex needs" in the region, including "funding research, new facilities and cutting edge technology."