A WAR veteran rendered housebound after his motorised wheelchair was wrecked by vandals will be back on the streets within days after a charity stepped in to repair the machine.
Feted fundraiser Tom Gilzean, 93, who has shaken charity tins on the Royal Mile for the last five years, was left devastated when his wheelchair was “torn to pieces” by yobs as he lay bedridden with illness.
But today Poppy Scotland vowed to patch up the £3000 mobility scooter for free after being alerted to the pensioner’s plight by the Evening News.
The former Royal Engineer, who has raised more than £80,000 for charity, spoke of the “overwhelming” response he had received from city residents, who had already began pledging money to fix the wheelchair.
Mr Gilzean said: “I would like to thank Poppy Scotland very much for even thinking about me and trying to help me. If they are going to pick it up and fix it then bring it back to me I would be so delighted.”
The selfless widower said he would be back on the Royal Mile collecting donations within days – provided a kindly shopkeeper would lend him a seat.
Since the news of Mr Gilzean’s misfortune broke yesterday, there has been a deluge of people offering to help.
Fitness trainer Eddie Brown, a former private in the parachute regiment, offered to donate money from his sessions to a fund to repair the wheelchair or buy a new one.
The 37-year-old, who toured Northern Ireland with the army, said he was touched by the pensioner’s big heart and wanted to contribute to his cause.
“When I heard what happened to him I was shocked and wanted to do something to help,” said Mr Brown. “I have passed Tom so many times on the Royal Mile and thought the guy is so enthusiastic about fundraising that he never fails to make me smile.”
Gary Gray, head of welfare services for Poppy Scotland, said: “We were shocked to hear that Tom had been targeted so callously.
“Poppy Scotland was only too happy to help him last year by providing a motorised scooter and, thanks to the Evening News, was alerted to his current plight and will be back in touch swiftly to make sure he gets the help he needs and deserves.
“We are only able to do this thanks to the continued support of the public.”
Councillor Cammy Day, community safety leader, was one of the first to respond to Mr Gilzean following the vandalism and said he had been swamped with messages of support and offers of help.
He said: “I’m overwhelmed at the response from individuals to the Evening News article regarding Tom Gilzean, from individuals making personal offer of support and donations.
“Tom is a highly respected member of the Edinburgh community and the mindless attack angered many of us.”
Mr Gilzean is due to received a lifetime achievement award at a gala dinner hosted by the Sick Kids Hospital on Friday.